Stock Market Today: Stocks Slip as Tech, Energy Come Up Lame

Investors took a few chips off the table Thursday as a wide range of employment and economic data painted a muddy picture of the ongoing recovery.

Oil seeps out of a barrel
(Image credit: Getty Images)

The stock market struggled on Thursday, hobbled by tech and energy, as Wall Street faced a blast of data.

The day started with China reporting slowing but still robust 7.9% economic growth for the second quarter, down from its wild 18.3% boom in Q1.

Here in the U.S., initial jobless claims for the week ended July 10 declined by 26,000 to a pandemic-low 360,000 filings, which was in line with estimates. Industrial production grew 0.4% month-over-month in June, which was slightly weaker than the 0.6% expected. A regional reading of mid-Atlantic factory activity showed its slowest pace of growth since December, but a New York-area manufacturing survey surged well above expectations to its highest reading ever.

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"I thought the China data was more important today," says Michael Reinking, senior market strategist for the New York Stock Exchange. "Q2 GDP did slightly miss, but the June industrial production and retail sales both came in ahead of expectations."

Tech names including Nvidia (NVDA (opens in new tab), -4.4%) and Advanced Micro Devices (AMD (opens in new tab), -2.4%) weighed on the S&P 500 (-0.3% to 4,360) and Nasdaq Composite (-0.7% to 14,543). Energy (-1.4%) was the market's worst sector, however, as U.S. crude oil futures declined 0.4% to $72.85 per barrel amid yesterday's OPEC production deal and indications that U.S. demand might be slipping.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average, led by Honeywell (HON (opens in new tab), +2.2%), eked out a 0.2% gain to 34,987.

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Other action in the stock market today:

  • The small-cap Russell 2000's struggles continued, with the index closing down 0.6% to 2,190.
  • Oatly Group (OTLY (opens in new tab)) was a notable decliner on Wall Street after Ben Axler of Spruce Point Capital Management said shares of the non-dairy milk company are worth less than $10. Speaking on CNBC's "Squawk Box," (opens in new tab) Axler called OTLY "one of those inflated bubble stocks," and accused the firm of misstating its financial results. The stock closed down 5.2% at $19.48, but remains above its late-May initial public offering (IPO) price of $17 per share.
  • UnitedHealth Group (UNH (opens in new tab)) shares gained ground after the insurance giant reported earnings. For its second quarter, UNH brought in adjusted earnings per share of $4.70 – off roughly 34% from what it earned a year ago, but above analysts' consensus estimate. Revenue, meanwhile, rose 14.8% year-over-year to $71.3 billion, topping Wall Street's expectations. The Dow stock ended the day up 1.3%.
  • Gold futures gained 0.2% to settle at $1,829 an ounce, marking their third consecutive win.
  • The CBOE Volatility Index (VIX) recovered by 4.2% to 17.01.
  • Bitcoin declined 3.5% to $32,724.50. Cryptocurrency site CoinDesk (opens in new tab) notes that Google searches for "Bitcoin price" have reached their lowest point since December – a sign that retail interest is at least temporarily waning. (Bitcoin trades 24 hours a day; prices reported here are as of 4 p.m. each trading day.)

stock chart for 071521

(Image credit: YCharts)

The Child Tax Credit (And What It Could Do for Stocks)

Thursday's biggest financial winners, however, were American parents.

On July 15, the Treasury began sending out payments as part of the expanded 2021 child tax credit (CTC). Our FAQ breaks down everything you need to know about this year's program, but the highlights include increased payouts, wider eligibility and monthly advance payouts between July and December.

Just like most quick influxes of spending – like the three national COVID-related stimulus payments and the major infrastructure plan being hashed out in Washington – the temporarily boosted CTC is expected to stimulate wide swaths of the American economy … but naturally, some more than than others.

Wall Street has its eye on a few select industries, and indeed, several stocks have been specifically singled out as potential beneficiaries of a child tax credit spending boom. However, not every last one of them is a buy. Read on as we look at eight stock picks that could enjoy a lift from the child tax credit, and examine how much (or how little) opportunity the pros see in each.

Kyle Woodley was long NVDA as of this writing.

Kyle Woodley
Senior Investing Editor, Kiplinger.com

Kyle is senior investing editor for Kiplinger.com. As a writer and columnist, he also specializes in exchange-traded funds. He joined Kiplinger in September 2017 after spending six years at InvestorPlace.com, where he managed the editorial staff. His work has appeared in several outlets, including U.S. News & World Report and MSN Money, he has appeared as a guest on Fox Business Network and Money Radio, and he has been quoted in MarketWatch, Vice and Univision, among other outlets. He is a proud graduate of The Ohio State University, where he earned a BA in journalism.