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Stocks mixed ahead of earnings season

Heidi Chung

Stocks ended Thursday’s session mixed as investors await the start of earnings season Friday morning.

As of market close, the S&P 500 (^GSPC) inched higher by 0.00%, or 0.11 points. The Health Care and Consumer Staples sectors were the worst-performing sectors, while the Industrials and Financials were the best-performing sectors during the seesion. The Dow (^DJI) was down 14.11 points, or 0.05%, and the Nasdaq (^IXIC) declined 0.21%, or 16.88 points.

U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Wednesday that he is “cautiously hopeful” about a U.S.-China deal on the horizon. He also told CNBC that the two sides have essentially agreed on an “enforcement mechanism,” and expressed extreme optimism. “If we can complete this agreement, this will be the most significant changes to the economic relationship between the U.S. and China in really the last 40 years. The opening of the Chinese economy will be a tremendous opportunity with structural changes that will benefit U.S. workers and U.S. companies,” he said.

In addition, the Wall Street Journal reported that China has revised its earlier offer to open up its cloud-computing access to foreign companies. China’s willingness to sweeten up the original offer is being interpreted as a positive sign that it is working toward a deal as soon as possible.

On the heels of the Federal Open Market Committee’s (FOMC) release of its March meeting minutes Wednesday afternoon, Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell will be meeting with Democratic lawmakers at their annual policy meeting Thursday evening, according to a CNBC report. Lawmakers intend to gain more insight into economic conditions as concerns continue to mount over the tumultuous relationship between the central bank and the president.

STOCKS: Bed Bath & Beyond and Rite Aid tank on earnings, Amazon 2018 letter to shareholders, Lyft tests $60

Big box retailer Bed Bath & Beyond (BBBYtanked after mixed earnings results. The company beat bottom line estimates but missed top line estimates. Bed Bath & Beyond has been entangled in a battle with activist investors as they look to replace the entire 16 member board as the company struggles to compete in a changing retail environment.

Rite Aid (RAD) shares plunged after issuing weaker-than-expected guidance. The company reported a mixed quarter, as shares hover below $1 per share. Rite Aid also announced a 1 for 20 reverse stock split ratio to prevent the New York Stock Exchange from delisting its shares.

Jeff Bezos headshot, as Amazon founder and CEO, watches on stage during a news conference unveiling the new Blue Origin rocket at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Cape Canaveral, graphic element on gray

Amazon (AMZN) fell after CEO Jeff Bezos released the company’s shareholder letter. In it, Bezos outlines the strength and growth of third-party sellers and Amazon Web Services (AWS). Additionally, Bezos called out other rival retailers to match Amazon and raise wages.

[Read more: Jeff Bezos: 'Market research doesn’t help']

Lyft (LYFT) shares edged higher Thursday after getting slammed during Wednesday’s session. The stock is trading near $60 per share, down 16.5% from its IPO price of $72. Investors have been paying close attention to Lyft as rival Uber looks to hit the public market. The ride-sharing giant could publicly file its IPO as soon as Thursday, according to a Bloomberg report.

ECON: Initial jobless claims fall to five-decade low

According to data released by the Labor Department, initial jobless claims for the week ended April 6 declined to 196,000 from 204,000 in the prior week. This is the lowest level in nearly 5 decades. Economists surveyed by Bloomberg were predicting an increase for the week.

“The reading of 196k represents a recovery-level low and the lowest reading on initial jobless claims since the late 1960s. However, when taken as a share of employment, initial jobless claims have been at all-time lows for several years and reflect unusually low rates of job separations,” Barclays wrote in a research note.