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Stocks Fall as Federal Reserve Summit Begins and Kabul Blasts Raise Caution

Stocks end lower Thursday after suicide bombings in Kabul and as investors hope a Fed symposium sheds some light on the central bank's plans for tapering stimulus.

Stocks finished lower Thursday in a cautious session after apparent suicide bombings in Afghanistan and with investors hoping a Federal Reserve symposium sheds some light on the central bank's plans for tapering stimulus.

The Pentagon said two apparent suicide bombings happened near a gate to the airport in Kabul, Afghanistan, less than a week before U.S. troops were set to leave the country. 

Reuters reported that the blasts killed scores of civilians and at least 12 U.S. troops. Eleven Marines and a Navy medic were among the dead, AP reported.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average finished down 192 points, or 0.54%, to 35,213, the S&P 500 declined 0.58% and the Nasdaq dropped 0.64%.

The yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury was unchanged Thursday at 1.344%.

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The Nasdaq and S&P 500 closed at records for a second day on Wednesday as investors awaited the start of the Federal Reserve gathering in Jackson Hole, Wyo.

Fed Chairman Jerome Powell is scheduled to make a Friday speech at the retreat.

Many investors believe the Fed chief won't make waves by announcing a timeline on tapering since the highly contagious delta virus strain has become a major risk to an economic recovery in the U.S. and the world.

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Officials at the Federal Reserve have split on the timing for the central bank to begin paring back on its $120 billion a month of asset purchases. Some have said it would be appropriate for the central bank to begin tapering asset purchases this year, while others said they preferred to wait for more solid economic data, especially on employment.

Kansas City Fed President Esther George told CNBC the economy has reached the point where the central bank can begin pulling back on economic stimulus.

“That I think is appropriate given the progress we’ve seen,” George told CNBC. “It doesn’t mean that we will move all the way to neutral or tighter policy, but I think it’s a first step. Signs in the economy right now are showing that we’re reaching that point."

Dallas Fed President Robert Kaplan said he would be pushing for the Fed to announce a pullback in stimulus in September with tapering to begin in either October or November.

Chris Zaccarelli, chief investment officer for Independent Advisor Alliance, said Powell likely would "keep all of his options open" by not hinting at a taper timeline. Therefore, eyes will be turning to the jobs report for August, which will be released Sept. 3, Zaccarelli said.

The number of Americans filing for first-time unemployment benefits rose by 4,000 last week to 353,000. It's the first time in five weeks that jobless claims have risen, though they remain near pandemic lows.

Second-quarter gross domestic product, meanwhile, was estimated to have risen 6.6%, up from the Commerce Department’s first estimate of a 6.5% annual increase. 

Oil prices fell for the first day in four despite data from the Energy Department Wednesday that showed another decline in domestic crude stocks. Investors trimmed bets on energy demand amid the ongoing rise in coronavirus infections in major economies around the world.

Sales of Salesforce.com  (CRM) - Get salesforce.com, inc. Report finished 2.7% higher Thursday after the business-software provider, which has benefited from the increased emphasis on cloud computing during the pandemic, raised its revenue guidance for the third quarter and full year.

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