NEW YORK (AFP) – Wall Street stocks ended a choppy session little changed on Thursday (Aug 19) as markets weighed better employment data against global growth worries.

Americans filed 348,000 new unemployment claims, seasonally adjusted, in the week ended Aug 14, fewer than expected and bringing the total closer to the pre-pandemic level, before Covid-19 forced nationwide business closures that caused millions of layoffs.

But stocks remained under pressure following two straight declines, with analysts pointing to worries over the impact of the virus’s Delta variant on economic activity.

The variant “risks slowing, but not derailing, the recovery,” said Oxford Economics, which predicted authorities would focus on vaccine diffusion and “resort to harsh restrictions only if there is a huge spike in severe Covid cases.”

The Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped 0.2 per cent to 34,894.12.

The broad-based S&P 500 added 0.1 per cent at 4,405.80, while the tech-rich Nasdaq Composite Index climbed 0.1 per cent to 14,541.79.

Petroleum-linked equities had an ugly session, falling with oil prices as climbing virus cases raise doubts about crude demand. ConocoPhillips, Chevron and ExxonMobil all lost at least 2 per cent.

Among individual companies, Macy’s jumped 19.2 per cent after lifting its sales and profit forecast for the year following a strong second quarter as customers returned to stores.

The department store also unveiled a plan to showcase Toys “R” Us merchandise in 400 US Macy’s stores.

Robinhood Markets plunged 10.3 per cent following its first earnings report as a publicly traded company. The trading platform announced a hefty quarterly loss and offered a tepid outlook for the upcoming period.

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