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Stocks Continue To Turn In A Lackluster Performance - U.S. Commentary


After initially showing a lack of direction, stocks continue to turn in a lackluster performance in mid-day trading on Friday. The major averages have been bouncing back and forth across the unchanged line following the rally seen in the previous session.

Currently, the major averages are turning in a mixed performance. While the S&P 500 is down 2.29 points or 0.1 percent at 2,353.55, the Dow is up 10.79 points or 0.1 percent at 20,589.50 and the Nasdaq is up 0.68 points or less than a tenth of a percent at 5,917.45.

The choppy trading on Wall Street comes amid geopolitical uncertainty ahead of the first round of voting in the French presidential election on Sunday.

Recent polls have suggested the race is too close to call amid questions about the impact of yesterday's terrorist attack that left one French police officer dead and two others wounded.

With no candidate expected to win more than 50 percent of the vote, the top two candidates will likely head to a runoff on May 7th.

Traders have largely shrugged off a report from the National Association of Realtors showing that U.S. existing home sales jumped to their highest level in ten years in March.

The report said existing home sales jumped 4.4 percent to an annual rate of 5.71 million in March after slumping by 3.9 percent to a downwardly revised 5.47 million February.

Economists had expected existing home sales to climb by 2.2 percent to a rate of 5.60 million from the 5.48 million originally reported for the previous month.

With the much bigger than expected increase, existing home sales surged up to their highest level since reaching 5.79 million in February of 2007.

Among individual stocks, shares of Kindred Healthcare (KND) have moved sharply higher after a report from Reuters said the acute care provider is exploring a possible sale.

Industrial conglomerate Honeywell (HON) is also posting a strong gain after reporting better than expected first quarter results and raising the low end of its full-year earnings guidance.

On the other hand, shares of Mattel (MAT) have come under pressure after the toymaker reported a wider than expected first quarter loss on revenues that came in below expectations.

Sector News

Most of the major sectors are showing only modest moves on the day, contributing to the lackluster performance by the broader markets.

Oil service stocks are seeing substantial weakness, however, with the Philadelphia Oil Service Index slumping by 1.4 percent. The index has fallen to its lowest intraday level in five months.

Schlumberger (SLB) is posting a notable loss after reporting first quarter earnings that matched analyst estimates but on weaker than expected revenues.

Considerable weakness is also visible among computer hardware stocks, as reflected by the 1.4 percent drop by the NYSE Arca Computer Hardware Index.

Natural gas, brokerage, and biotechnology stocks are also seeing some weakness on the day, while utilities and software stocks have moved to the upside.

Other Markets

In overseas trading, stock markets across the Asia-Pacific region moved mostly higher during trading on Friday. Japan's Nikkei 225 Index surged up by 1 percent, while Australia's All Ordinaries Index rose by 0.5 percent. Chinese stocks closed roughly flat.

Meanwhile, the major European markets closed mixed ahead of the French elections. While the German DAX Index rose by 0.2 percent, the U.K.'s FTSE 100 Index edged down by 0.1 percent and the French CAC 40 Index fell by 0.4 percent.

In the bond market, treasuries have moved back to the upside following the pullback seen over the two previous sessions. Subsequently, the yield on the benchmark ten-year note, which moves opposite of its price, is down by 2 basis points at 2.221 percent

by RTTNews Staff Writer

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