U.S. stocks traded in the negative zone on Thursday amid jobs and productivity data and remarks from two regional Fed presidents.
Traders believed that with the earnings season winding down, the market needs to focus on other positive catalyst and macro issues to push the market higher.
Kenneth Polcari, director of NYSE Floor Operations at O’Neil Securities Inc., predicted the stock market will move in a churning way in February.
Meanwhile, Chicago Fed President Charles Evans said in an interview with CNBC on Thursday morning that the Federal Reserve had appropriate policies in place now and the Fed needs to continue the current quantitative easing for six months to a year.
Evans predicted the U.S. unemployment rate would not achieve 6. 5 percent until mid-2015 and believed the Fed’s ongoing policies have done a lot of good already but will remain accommodative until economy improves.
Additionally, St. Louis Fed President Jeremy Stein said the Fed may have to adjust monetary policy in the future to combat asset bubbles and the central bank should be "realistic" about the limitations of regulatory tools.
On the economic front, last week’s new jobless claims came in slightly better than the prior level, indicating that the jobs market is improving in a modest and restrained manner.
In the week ended Feb. 2, initial jobless claims fell 5,000 to a seasonally adjusted 366,000 compared with the prior week’s revised up figure of 371,000. The four week moving average of the claims, a less volatile measure, decreased 2,250 to 350,500 from the prior figure, the Labor Department said.
Meanwhile, the U.S. nonfarm business sector’s labor productivity fell 2.0 percent in the fourth quarter of 2012 following a strong gain of 3.2 percent in the third quarter, while unit labor cost in the quarter rose 4.5 percent, according to a separate report by the Labor Department.