Morning Blast: Mega-caps and Semiconductors: Investors' New Safe Space?

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Premarket action on Thursday had the three major U.S. indexes trading lower. The Dow Jones industrials were down 0.25%, the S&P 500 down 0.40% and the Nasdaq 0.68% lower.

As expected, the Federal Reserve’s FOMC did not raise interest rates on Wednesday. That was the good news. The less-good news is that the committee has four more meetings this year, and Fed Chair Jerome Powell indicated that two more quarter-point hikes may be in order. The Fed’s famous (infamous?) dot plot showed that the median estimate for the federal funds rate could close out the year at 5.6%, up from a previous estimate of 5.1%, and indicating two more rate hikes to get from the current range of 5.0% to 5.25% to a new range of 5.5% to 5.75%.

Before U.S. markets open on Thursday, the Census Bureau will retail sales for May and the U.S. Department of Labor will release its May report on new claims for unemployment benefits. The consensus estimate calls for total sales to be flat month over month and sales excluding automobiles to be up 0.1%. In April, both rates increased by 0.4%.

Bitcoin fell below $25,000 Wednesday afternoon and traded at about $24,900 early Thursday. The Fed’s hint at higher interest rates has investors looking beyond high-risk assets like Bitcoin for safety.

That place may continue to be the mega-cap and semiconductor stocks. The Nasdaq 100 rose by 0.70% on Wednesday, led by Intel Corp. (NASDAQ: INTC), Nvidia Corp. (NASDAQ: NVDA) and Broadcom Inc. (NASDAQ: AVGO), up 4.92%, 4.81% and 4.12%, respectively. Advanced Micro Devices Inc. (NASDAQ: AMD) introduced its new “superchip” on Tuesday, and Intel claimed Wednesday that its own high-performance silicon is even better.

Nvidia, meanwhile, continues to lead and becomes the target other chipmakers have in their sights. A rumored Intel investment in the initial public offering of chip designer Arm could change the landscape. Nvidia, which gave up its $30 billion bid for Arm last year, will scream if Intel gets some kind of favored customer status by virtue of an investment in Arm’s IPO.

Initial claims for jobless benefits are expected to drop from the prior week’s total of 261,000 to 251,000. Continuing claims, which are reported with a two-week lag, dropped by 37,000 in last week’s report to a total of 1.78 million.

UnitedHealth Group Inc. (NYSE: UNH) dragged down the entire health care sector Wednesday when the company revealed that it was going to pay out more in claims than it had expected. The company’s chief financial officer commented on “pent-up demand” driving the medical-loss ratio (the amount insurers spend to provide the services that people pay premiums for) is expected to rise in the second quarter and be higher for the full year.

Before markets open on Thursday, Jabil Inc. (NYSE: JBL) and Kroger Co. (NYSE: KR) will report quarterly results. After markets close, Adobe Inc. (NASDAQ: ADBE) is set to report results.

Here is a look at how U.S. markets fared on Wednesday.

Seven of 11 market sectors closed lower. Health care and energy (both down 1.12%) posted the day’s biggest losses. Technology (1.14%) and consumer staples (0.56%) had the day’s best gains. The Dow Jones industrials closed down 0.68%, the S&P 500 up 0.08% and the Nasdaq up 0.39% on Wednesday.

Two-year Treasuries added seven basis points to end Wednesday at 4.74%, and 10-year notes dropped one basis point to post a rate of 3.83%. In Thursday’s premarket, two-year notes were trading at around 4.74% and 10-year notes at about 3.83%.

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