ISM Data Looms Over the Market

By Chuck Mikolajczak | NEW YORK

U.S. stocks were flat on Thursday, with gains in the tech sector offseting sluggish factory activity data and lower oil prices, as investors exercised caution ahead of a key payrolls report on Friday.

A report from the Institute of Supply Management showed U.S. factory activity contracted for the first time in six months in August as new orders and production tumbled, but data on the labor market pointed to a pickup in third-quarter economic growth.

“The ISM data was, in a word, disappointing, because many investors and market participants were expecting to see a more robust number, something more in line with recent trend,” said Peter Kenny, senior market strategist at Global Markets Advisory Group, in New York.

“It has forced investors to reconsider the landscape, not go blindly into the narrative that spells out a certainty about interest rates being bumped up in September.”

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