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Stocks inch lower as semiconductor shares ease; yen up vs dollar

by Jessica Weisman-Pitts
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Stocks inch lower as semiconductor shares ease; yen up vs dollar

By Caroline Valetkevitch

NEW YORK (Reuters) -Global stock indexes edged lower in choppy trading Thursday as Micron Technology shares fell and weighed on semiconductors, while the Japanese yen strengthened slightly against the U.S. dollar.

U.S. Treasury yields declined slightly after a series of U.S. economic reports, which mostly suggested ebbing economic momentum, supporting the view the Federal Reserve could soon begin cutting interest rates.

The data included a report showing first-time applications for U.S. unemployment benefits drifted lower last week, but the number of people on jobless rolls jumped to a 2-1/2 year high in mid-June.

Traders are waiting for Friday’s U.S. personal consumption expenditures (PCE) data, which is the Fed’s preferred inflation measure and could help traders determine the outlook for the Fed’s interest rates.

The yen was last up slightly against the U.S. dollar, but remained near its weakest in 38 years versus the dollar, keeping investors on alert for any sign of intervention from Japanese authorities to prop up the currency.

Japan’s finance minister has said he would take any necessary action on currencies, and that Japanese authorities were “deeply concerned” about the effect of the yen’s drop on the economy.

The Japanese yen strengthened 0.21% against the greenback at 160.49 per dollar.

The dollar index, which measures the greenback against a basket of currencies, fell 0.22% at 105.82, with the euro up 0.28% at $1.0709.

Wall Street’s major stock indexes mostly dipped, with chipmaker Micron Technology shares down 6% after a disappointing revenue forecast late Wednesday. An index of semiconductors was down 1%.

“It’s going to be a bit difficult for the tech sector to drive on the market the way that it’s done,” said Mike Gallagher, director of research at Continuum Economics.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 58.48 points, or 0.15%, to 39,186.28, the S&P 500 lost 6.95 points, or 0.13%, to 5,470.95 and the Nasdaq Composite lost 25.86 points, or 0.15%, to 17,779.33.

MSCI’s gauge of stocks across the globe fell 1.42 points, or 0.18%, to 802.31. The STOXX 600 index fell 0.41%.

France, Italy and Spain will also release inflation data on Friday.

Investors had become more worried about inflation following a surprise jump in inflation data in Australia on Wednesday and in Canada on Tuesday.

Also, the first round of French parliamentary elections will take place on Sunday.

In U.S. Treasuries, the yield on benchmark U.S. 10-year notes fell 3.5 basis points to 4.281%, from 4.316% late on Wednesday.

U.S. crude gained 0.93% to $81.65 a barrel and Brent rose to $86.05 per barrel, up 0.94% on the day.

(Additional reporting by Ankika Biswas and Lisa Mattackal in Bengaluru and Elizabeth Howcroft in LondonEditing by Mark Potter and Josie Kao)