U.S. stocks struggle for direction after Swiss shocker

U.S. stocks dipped in and out of negative territory as investors grappled with disappointing earnings from large banks, mixed economic data and a surprise action from the Swiss National Bank that rocked currency markets.

The unexpected move to ditch its currency ceiling and implement a rate cut by SNB rocked currency, commodity and equity markets around the world, as investors reassessed their strategies which were based on different assumptions. The Swiss decision amid mixed U.S. earnings and economic releases helped foster a choppy trading environment Thursday.

The S&P 500 SPX, -0.48% switched between small gains and losses. Materials and industrials moved higher, while energy and financials led losses.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average DJIA, -0.36% dipped in and out of negative territory and was last trading higher, with two-thirds of its components trading lower. J.P. Morgan Chase & Co and Goldman Sachs Group Inc .were the top decliners on the index.

The Nasdaq Composite COMP, -0.69% remained in negative territory.

Data on employment and inflation came in weaker than expected, but a report on manufacturing in New York State was stronger. Jobless claims jumped above the 300,000 level, highest level since September, while producer prices posted the biggest decline in December in more than three years. Meanwhile, the Empire State manufacturing index bounced back into positive territory in January.

In its stunning move Thursday, the Swiss National Bank dumped its long-standing minimum exchange rate of 1.20 Swiss francs to the euro, as the cap on the franc appeared increasingly indefensible in the face of the weakening euro.

 Varchev Traders

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