US Stocks Edge Lower Thursday

(AP) -- Stocks edged lower in morning trading on Wall Street Thursday as investors tapped the brakes after three days of gains.

The S&P 500 fell 0.3% as of 10:13 a.m. Eastern. The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 79 points, or 0.2%, to 35,674 and the Nasdaq fell 0.5%.

The modest pullback follows a 3.6% gain for the benchmark S&P 500 index over the first three days of the week, largely in response to easing worries about the omicron variant of the COVID-19 virus. It has marked a sharp about-face for stocks following two weeks of losses over concerns about rising inflation and the coronavirus potentially crimping economic growth. Every major index is on track for a weekly gain.

A mix of retailers and other companies that rely on direct consumer spending led the losses. Best Buy fell 1.2%. Travel-related companies slipped after spending the last few days gaining ground. Carnival fell 0.6% and United Airlines fell 0.7%.

Bond yields slipped. The yield on the 10-year Treasury fell to 1.49% from 1.51% late Wednesday. That weighed down banks, which rely on higher bond yields to charge more lucrative interest on loans. Citigroup shed 2%.

U.S. crude oil prices fell 0.9% and pulled energy stocks lower. Devon Energy fell 3.2%.

Health care companies eked out gains. CVS Health rose 3.3% after raising its dividend and issuing a solid forecast. Pfizer, which has been touting the potential benefits of a vaccine booster against the latest COVID-19 variant, rose 2.4%.

Investors received an encouraging update on job market's recovery. The Labor Department reported that the number of Americans applying for unemployment benefits plunged last week to the lowest level in 52 years.

The employment market's recovery has been a key focus for Wall Street while it gauges the strength of the economy as it moves past the virus pandemic. Rising inflation has been another focus, and investors will get an update Friday when the Labor Department releases its Consumer Price Index for November.

The latest inflation data comes ahead of the Federal Reserve's two-day meeting of policymakers next week. Rising inflation has prompted the central bank to speed up the pace at which it trims its bond purchases, which have helped keep interest rates low. That has raised concerns that the Fed will raise its benchmark interest rates next year sooner than expected.