Stocks were mixed in early trading on Monday as investors sifted a mixed bag of data from China. Wall Street continues to eye the bond market, where yields gave back some of last week's gains.
The S&P 500 index was down 0.1% at 10:05 a.m. Eastern as rising industrial and consumer discretionary shares were offset by declines in banks and energy stocks. The Dow Jones Industrial Average was down 0.1% as well, dragged down by the same industries. Meanwhile the Nasdaq Composite was up slightly, rising 0.2%.
Investors' focus remains on the recovery of the U.S. and global economies from the coronavirus pandemic. The $1.9 trillion aid package for the U.S. economy has lifted investors' confidence in a strong recovery from the pandemic in the second half of the year, but also a potential jump in inflation.
President Joe Biden also laid out a plan, in a prime-time speech last week on Thursday to expand vaccine eligibility to all Americans by May 1, which should also translate into faster economic growth.
Bond yields ticked mildly lower on Monday, with the 10-year U.S. Treasury note falling to 1.60% from 1.62% on Friday. The mild drop in yields was impacting bank stocks the most, where investors have placed big bets that higher yields would translate into banks charging more to borrowers. Bank of America was down 1.5%, Wells Fargo was down 1% and Citigroup fell 1.5% as well.
Technology stocks, which have been hurt by the rise in bond yields, resumed climbing. Apple and Tesla Motor Co. both rose 2%. The bond market was the dominant force in pulling tech stocks mostly downward this year, because as yields push interest rates higher, they make high-flying stocks look expensive.
Markets got a mixed message from China, which has led the global recovery and reopened earlier than other countries from coronavirus shut-downs following the disease's emergence in the central city of Wuhan in early 2020.
Retail sales there jumped nearly 36% year-on-year in January-February from a year earlier. The surge was mostly driven by strong demand for cars, catering and jewelry, suggesting Chinese consumers were splashing out during the Lunar New Year, ING economists said in a report.
The gain was exaggerated by comparison with the low level of activity during the shutdowns last year, ING said.
Meanwhile, China's jobless rate rose to 5.5% from 5.2% a year earlier, possibly affected by flare ups of coronavirus in some areas, analysts said.