US STOCKS-Wall Street reverses, closing lower ahead of inflation report

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NEW YORK, June 9 (Reuters) - Wall Street stocks ended lower on Wednesday, reversing earlier gains as institutional investors awaited inflation data for clues as to when the U.S. Federal Reserve might tighten its dovish monetary policy.

The retail “meme stock” craze continued unabated.

The S&P 500 flirted with a record closing high, and all three major U.S. stock indexes lost steam by the closing bell, but remained range-bound in the absence of any clear market catalysts.

“There’s a lull period in terms of news,” said Chuck Carlson, chief executive at Horizon Investment Services in Hammond, Indiana. “We’re through earnings period and people are waiting for inflation numbers tomorrow, so you have a mixed market where the major averages aren’t doing much of anything.”

Heavily shorted meme stocks extended their social media-driven rally, with Aethlon Medical soaring over 300%.

Reddit chatter also helped to lift shares of prison operator GEO Group, and World Wrestling Entertainment.

However, other meme stocks such as Clover Health, AMC Entertainment and Bed Bath & Beyond reversed course to close lower.

Retail volume has returned to its January peak, according to Vanda Research, as social media forums scramble to identify the next GameStop Corp, the stock that kicked off the phenomenon.

“It feels like alternative stock market,” Carlson added. It’s an indication of speculation. You can be successful if you get in at the right moment but it’s very difficult to play successfully over time.”

“I don’t think you should read too much regarding the broader market.”

GameStop is expected to post quarterly results after the bell.

U.S. President Joe Biden changed course in ongoing negotiations to reach a bipartisan agreement on infrastructure spending after one-on-one talks with Senator Shelley Capito broke down.

Industrial stocks, which stand to benefit from an infrastructure deal, weighed on the blue-chip Dow.

Washington lawmakers passed a sweeping bill designed to boost the United States’ ability to compete against Chinese technology, providing funds for research and semiconductor production amid an ongoing chip supply drought. The bill now heads to the House of Representatives.

Even so, the Philadelphia SE Semiconductor index lost ground.

The Labor Department’s consumer price index report due out Thursday will provide another take on inflation amid the recovery’s demand/supply imbalance as investors determine whether inflationary pressures, as the Fed asserts, will be transitory.

Unofficially, the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 152.15 points, or 0.44%, to 34,447.67, the S&P 500 lost 7.65 points, or 0.18%, to 4,219.61 and the Nasdaq Composite dropped 13.16 points, or 0.09%, to 13,911.75.

Benchmark Treasury yields dropped below 1.5% for the first time since May, weighing on interest-sensitive financials .

Campbell Soup Co missed quarterly profit expectations and slashed its full-year earnings forecast, sending its shares lower.

Pfizer Inc advanced after the Biden administration unveiled plans to donate 500 COVID-19 doses to about 100 countries over the next two years, according to a Washington Post report.

Drugmaker Merck & Co shares gained on the heels of its announcement the U.S. government had agreed to buy about 1.7 million courses of the company’s experimental COVID-19 treatment, molnupiravir, for about $1.2 billion, if the drug meets regulatory approval. (Reporting by Stephen Culp; Additional reporting by Ambar Warrick and Shashank Nayar in Bengaluru Editing by Gareth Jones and Richard Chang)