By Stephen Culp
NEW YORK (Reuters) – Wall Street stocks struggled for closing gains on Tuesday as a lack of clear market catalysts kept institutional investors in a holding pattern, while retail traders kept the rally of so-called meme stocks alive.
All three major U.S. stock indexes ended the range-bound session near flat or higher.
The tech-laded Nasdaq fared best, with Amazon.com Inc (NASDAQ:) and Apple Inc (NASDAQ:) providing the biggest boost.
“We’re waiting for inflation numbers, waiting for more from the (Federal Reserve), waiting for earnings season,” said Paul Nolte, portfolio manager at Kingsview Asset Management in Chicago. “There’s not a lot motivating the market today.”
“We’re in this twilight zone until probably right after the Fourth of July, when we see earnings season kick in,” Nolte added.
The CBOE volatility index, a measure of investor anxiety, touched its lowest level in over a year.
Smallcaps, once again buoyed by the ongoing meme stock retail frenzy, were outperforming their larger counterparts.
Clover Health Investments seized top billing among meme stocks, and ended the session as the largest percentage gainer in the Nasdaq.
Other stocks whose recent explosive trading volumes have been attributed to social media buzz, including GameStop Corp (NYSE:), Bed Bath & Beyond Inc (NASDAQ:), Workhorse Group and others ended sharply higher.
“(Meme stocks) are where the action is, but you flip it over and look crypto and that’s a mess,” Nolte said. “Now the meme stocks are taking over from crypto as the place to be and it’s all a consequence of very easy monetary policy.”
Reports from the U.S. Labor Department and National Federation of Independent Business appeared to confirm a labor shortage even as demand roars back to life, which could put upward pressure on wages, a precursor to wider inflation.
Market participants look to Thursday’s consumer price index data for further clues regarding inflation, and how it could influence the Federal Reserve’s timetable for tightening its monetary policy.
Unofficially, the fell 31.67 points, or 0.09%, to 34,598.57, the gained 0.71 points, or 0.02%, to 4,227.23 and the added 43.19 points, or 0.31%, to 13,924.91.
Sales of Tesla (NASDAQ:) Inc’s China-made electric cars jumped in May by 29%, marking a 177% year-on-year increase, according to the China Passenger Car Association. The stock erased initial gains on the news.
Boeing (NYSE:) Co was lifted by Southwest Airlines (NYSE:)’ announcement that it had ordered 34 new 737 MAX aircraft, but the planemaker’s shares pared early gains.
GameStop, the company most closely associated with the Reddit-driven short squeeze phenomenon, is expected to report quarterly results after markets close on Wednesday.