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S&P 500 closes lower, gives up earlier gains as volatility continues

Stocks whipsawed in volatile trading Thursday as investors mulled over an update from the Federal Reserve, the latest GDP report and corporate earnings.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed little changed at 34,160.78. The blue-chip average was up more than 600 points at its highs. The S&P 500 ticked down 0.5% to 4,326.51, and the Nasdaq Composite fell 1.4% to 13,352.78. Both indexes traded in positive territory earlier in the session.

Stocks are coming off three straight roller-coaster sessions, with the indexes seeing big swings each day this week. Despite wild intraday movement, the Dow is down just 0.3% on the week, while the S&P 500 is off by 1.6% and the Nasdaq is 3% lower.

The three major averages are solidly in negative territory this month, with the Nasdaq down more than 17% from its intraday high.

The Federal Open Market Committee this week strongly indicated the first interest rate hike since late 2018 could come as soon as March. Fed Chairman Jerome Powell rattled markets Wednesday saying the central bank has “quite a bit of room” to raise rates before negatively impacting employment.

“Yesterday’s FOMC decision and Powell’s presser was both positive and negative for markets, but in the end, it mostly reinforced what we know: The Fed is serious about raising rates, that’s going to continue to … keep markets volatile,” Tom Essaye, founder of Sevens Report, said in a note.

Investors on Thursday digested a slew of economic readings and earnings reports.

Fourth-quarter gross domestic product jumped 6.9% from the year prior, the Commerce Department reported Thursday. Economists surveyed by Dow Jones expected the economy grew at a 5.5% annualized pace in the final three months of 2021.

“The Q4 GDP report was a nice upside surprise in a string of recently underwhelming economic data points,” Mike Reynolds, vice president of investment strategy at Glenmede, said in a note.

On the earnings front, Intel and Tesla posted strong quarterly numbers. However, their shares fell 7% and 11.6%, respectively.

Netflix jumped 7.5% on Thursday after news that Pershing’s Bill Ackman bought 3.1 million shares.

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