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US stocks slip but are still on track for 6th monthly gain

Stocks fell in afternoon trading on Wall Street Friday but are still on track to close out July with their sixth straight monthly gain

The S&P 500 index fell 0.4% as of 1:20 p.m. Eastern and is on pace for a weekly loss, though still poised to finish out July with its sixth monthly gain. The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 122 points, or 0.4%, to 34,962 and the Nasdaq fell 0.6%.

Sectors that are viewed as less risky, such as real estate and companies that sell household and personal products, made gains. Banks, technology companies and others that focus on consumer services and goods fell.

Amazon, which fell 6.8%, weighed down the Nasdaq and the benchmark S&P 500, which was about evenly split between gainers and losers. The company reported disappointing sales during its second quarter and gave investors a weak sales forecast. Amazon did extremely well during the worst of the virus pandemic as people were forced to hunker down and shop from home, but the recovery has more people returning to in-store shopping and other pre-pandemic activities.

Digital pinboard and shopping tool company Pinterest ran into a similar issue during the second quarter. Its stock slumped 19.1% after reporting disappointing user growth.

It’s been a busy week for corporate earnings and roughly 59% of the companies in the S&P 500 have reported results, according to FactSet.

“What’s really encouraging is that the sales surprise is trending positive,” said Sal Bruno, chief investment officer at IndexIQ. “That tells me that companies are growing, which goes along with the economic reopening.”

So far, 87% of companies have reported surprisingly good sales results for the second quarter, according to FactSet.

Investors are also reviewing the latest economic data as they try to gauge the economic recovery’s trajectory. Consumer spending, which makes up a majority of the economy, rose 1% in June. A key measure of inflation rose 3.5%, marking the fastest such 12-month surge since 1991.

Inflation fears have been lingering over the market through the year. Investors are trying to figure out whether rising inflation will be a temporary effect of the economic recovery or longer lasting. They are also closely watching for the Federal Reserve’s reaction to both the economic recovery and rising inflation. The central bank is expected to eventually temper its support, through bond purchases and other measures, but the timing is still unknown.

The yield on the 10-year Treasury fell to 1.24% from 1.27% late Thursday.

Indexes have been steadily rising, though trading has been choppy as investors gauge a range of economic data, corporate earnings and news about the virus pandemic. Investors could be in for more of the same in August, Bruno said.

“The fundamental outlook is generally pretty strong going forward, even if there is some shorter term weakness and volatility,” he said.

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