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04/04/24 Briefing

Stocks were lower on Thursday as fears that inflation's bumpy path forward could push out interest rate cuts continued to proliferate through the market.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average (^DJI) fell about 0.7%, while the S&P 500 (^GSPC) dropped 0.4%. The tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite (^IXIC) slipped 0.2%.

All three major averages reversed strong midday gains after Minnesota Fed President Neel Kashkari suggested the Fed may not cut interest rates at all this year if inflation progress stalls.

Prior to the comments, the market had shaken off a rough start to the second quarter after Chair Jerome Powell soothed concernsthe Federal Reserve would lose its nerve for making rate cuts.

The labor market remains in focus for investors with the March jobs report, due out Friday morning, seen as a key economic input for the Fed's data-dependent policy decision-making. By and large, experts don't expect to see any sign of cracks in the strong US labor market story. Department of Labor data released on Thursday showed initial jobless claims rose by 9,000 to 221,000 last week, their highest level since January.

Oil futures spiked more than 1% amid escalating tensions in the Middle East. West Texas Intermediate (CL=F) settled at $86.59 per barrel while Brent (BZ=F), the international benchmark price, closed at $90.65 per barrel, their highest level since October.

On the corporate front, Levi Strauss (LEVI) shares jumped 14% after the jeans maker boosted its full-year earnings forecasts. Meanwhile, BlackBerry's (BB) US-listed stock popped as the Canadian company's cybersecurity unit helped deliver a surprise quarterly profit.

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