U.S. stocks finished mostly higher on the eve of Thanksiving as investors parsed a deluge of data, including minutes from the Federal Reserve’s November meeting, which indicated that inflation pressures could take longer to subside than previously thought and that members of the central bank raised the possibility of ending bond purchases sooner than they planned if high prices persisted. The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed in negative territory but virtually unchanged at around 35,805, on a preliminary basis, the S&P 500 index advanced 0.2% to around 4,701, just below a Nov. 18 closing record high at 4,704.54, and the Nasdaq Composite Index gained 0.4% at roughly 15,845. U.S. markets will be closed on Thursday for Thanksgiving and will see an early finish on the following Friday session. An account of the Fed’s Nov. 2-3 meeting showed that most senior officials at the central bank still expect price rises to slow next year, but they also acknowledged “inflation pressures could take longer to subside” than they previously believed due to continuing labor and supply shortages. Earlier investors digested U.S. economic data showing first-time claims for unemployment benefits plunged by 71,000 to 199,000 last week, the lowest levels since 1969. In other data Wednesday, the pace of economic growth in the third quarter was raised to a 2.1% annualized rate versus an initial estimate of 2%. The U.S. trade deficit in goods narrowed sharply in October. Data also highlighted historically elevated levels of inflation, with a measure of the cost of goods and services jumping 0.6% in October, based on the personal consumption expenditure index or PCE, and rose 5% over the past year from 4.4% in September. That’s the highest level since December 1990. The PCE index is the Federal Reserve’s favored inflation indicators. In corporate news, shares of Nordstrom Inc. slumped nearly 30% Wednesday after the department store chain reported third-quarter earnings short of analysts’ expectations.
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