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Stocks Showing A Lack Of Direction In Early Trading - U.S. Commentary

After moving mostly higher over the course of the previous session, stocks are turning in a lackluster performance in early trading on Friday. The major averages are lingering near the unchanged line after ending Thursday's trading at multi-year closing highs.

The major averages are currently turning in a mixed performance, with the Nasdaq posting a modest loss. While the Nasdaq is down 4.74 points or 0.2 percent at 3,051.63, the Dow is up 9.80 points or 0.1 percent at 13,262.56 and the S&P 500 is up 1.05 points or 0.1 percent at 1,403.65.

The choppy trading comes as traders seem reluctant to make any significant moves following the strong upward move seen in recent sessions, expressing some uncertainty about the outlook for the markets.

While most of the major sectors are showing only modest moves, considerable strength has emerged among oil service stocks. The Philadelphia Oil Service Index has surged up by 1.8 percent amid an increase by the price of crude oil.

Natural gas, railroad, and steel stocks are also seeing early strength, while weakness is visible among computer hardware and housing stocks.

On the economic front, the Labor Department released a report showing a moderate increase in consumer prices in the month of February, with the increase reflecting a jump in energy prices.

The Labor Department said its consumer price index rose by 0.4 percent in February following a 0.2 percent increase in January. Economists had expected the index to increase by about 0.5 percent.

Excluding food and energy prices, the core consumer price index edged up by 0.1 percent in February compared to a 0.2 percent increase in the previous month. Core prices had been expected to increase by about 0.2 percent.

Separately, the Federal Reserve released a report showing that industrial production unexpectedly came in unchanged in the month of February, with a sharp drop in mining output offsetting continued growth in the manufacturing sector.

The report showed that industrial production was unchanged in February after rising by a revised 0.4 percent in January. Economist had expected production to increase by 0.5 percent after initial data showed that production was unchanged in the previous month.

In overseas trading, stock markets across the Asia-Pacific region turned in another lackluster performance on Friday, ending the day mixed. While Japan's Nikkei 225 Index edged up by 0.1 percent, Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index slipped 0.2 percent.

Meanwhile, the major European markets have all moved to the upside on the day. The French CAC 40 Index has risen by 0.2 percent, while the U.K.'s FTSE 100 Index and the German DAX Index are both advancing by 0.4 percent.

In the bond market, treasuries are seeing notable weakness after ending the previous session nearly flat. Subsequently, the yield on the benchmark ten-year note, which moves opposite of its price, is up by 6.5 basis points at 2.346 percent.

by RTT Staff Writer

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