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Stocks Close Nearly Flat After Seeing Early Strength


After failing to sustain an early upward move, stocks gave back ground over the course of the trading day on Friday, ending the session nearly flat. Lingering uncertainty about the outlook for the markets helped to keep trading activity subdued.

The major averages finished the day mixed, although they all closed near the unchanged line. While the Nasdaq inched up 4.00 points or 0.1 percent to 3,179.96, the Dow edged down 17.46 points or 0.1 percent to 13.579.47 and the S&P 500 slipped 0.11 points or less than a tenth of a percent to 1,460.15.

For the week, the major averages moved modestly lower. The S&P 500 fell by 0.4 percent, while the Dow and the Nasdaq both dipped by 0.1 percent.

The early strength on Wall Street was partly due to a report from the Financial Times indicating that European Union officials are working behind the scenes to pave the way for a new Spanish rescue program and unlimited bond buying by the European Central Bank.

Citing officials involved in the discussions, FT said the talks are focused on ensuring that the measures that will be required by international lenders as part of a new rescue program are in place before a bailout is formally requested.

Peter Boockvar, managing director at Miller Tabak, said, "While discussions are ongoing, it doesn't mean Spain will be so quick to ask for the help as right now seems to be a fact finding mission for Spanish officials on what the conditions they will be subject to if need be."

Nonetheless, buying interest waned not longer after the open, as traders were reluctant to make significant moves amid a lack of major U.S. economic data, looking ahead to future catalysts following last week's Federal Reserve meeting.

Stocks subsequently moved back to the downside as the day progressed, although selling pressure also remained subdued, resulting in the roughly flat close.

Among individual stocks, Apple (AAPL) ended the day modestly higher as the company's highly anticipated iPhone 5 hit stores around the globe. Shares of Apple edged up by 0.2 percent.

Earlier this week, Apple announced that pre-orders of the iPhone 5 topped two million in just 24 hours, more than double the previous record of one million held by the iPhone 4S.

Business software giant Oracle (ORCL) also moved higher on the day after releasing its fiscal first quarter results after the close of trading on Thursday.

Oracle reported first quarter adjusted earnings of $0.53 per share, in line with analyst estimates. However, the company said its revenues dipped 2 percent to $8.18 billion, coming in below expectations.

Meanwhile, shares of MicroVision (MVIS) came under pressure after the developer of miniature laser display and imaging engines announced that Jeff Wilson has resigned his position as Chief Financial Officer. MicroVision tumbled by 12.9 percent.

In overseas trading, stock markets across the Asia-Pacific region moved mostly higher during trading on Friday. Japan's Nikkei 225 ended the day up by 0.3 percent, while Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index advanced by 0.7 percent.

Meanwhile, the major European markets turned in a mixed performance on the day. While the U.K.'s FTSE 100 Index closed just below the unchanged line, the French CAC 40 Index and the German DAX Index rose by 0.6 percent and 0.8 percent, respectively.

In the bond market, treasuries moved modestly higher over the course of the session after seeing early weakness. Subsequently, the yield on the benchmark ten-year note, which moves opposite of its price, fell by 1.7 basis points to 1.76 percent after reaching an early high of 1.793 percent.

While most of the major sectors ended the day showing only modest moves, significant strength remained visible among housing stocks. The Philadelphia Housing Sector Index advanced by 1.7 percent, reaching its best closing level in almost five years.

KB Home (KBH) helped to lead the housing sector higher, with the homebuilder surging up by 16.4 percent after unexpectedly reporting a third quarter profit compared to a year-ago loss.

Telecom stocks also showed a notable move to the upside, driving the NYSE Arca North American Telecom Index up by 1.3 percent. MetroPCS Communications (PCS) and Motorola Solutions (MSI) turned in two of the sector's best performances.

Health insurance, biotechnology, and oil service stocks also saw strength on the day, although buying interest was subdued.

On the other hand, railroad stocks came under pressure over the course of the session, dragging the Dow Jones Railroads Index down by 1.4 percent. Steel stocks also saw notable weakness.

Next week, trading could be impacted by the release of some key economic data, including reports on new home sales, durable goods orders, and personal spending, although the data may be seen as too backward-looking in light of the Fed's recent announcement of another round of quantitative easing.

by RTTNews Staff Writer

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