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

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After ending the previous session mostly higher, stocks have shown a lack of direction over the course of morning trading on Friday. The major averages have spent the morning bouncing back and forth across the unchanged line.

Currently, the major averages are posting modest gains. The Dow is up 20.84 points or 0.1 percent at 26,166.83, the Nasdaq is up 24.25 points or 0.3 percent at 8,037.96 and the S&P 500 is up 2.38 points or 0.1 percent at 2,906.56.

The choppy trading on Wall Street comes amid uncertainty about trade after reports earlier this week of another round of talks between the U.S. and China.

Traders are also digesting a slew of U.S. economic data, including a report showing retail sales increased by much less than expected in August.

The Commerce Department said retail sales inched up by 0.1 percent in August after climbing by an upwardly revised 0.7 percent in July.

Economists had expected retail sales to rise by 0.4 percent compared to the 0.5 percent increase originally reported for the previous month.

Excluding the decrease in auto sales, retail sales rose by 0.3 percent in August after jumping by an upwardly revised 0.9 percent in July.

Ex-auto sales had been expected to climb by 0.5 percent compared to the 0.6 percent growth originally reported for the previous month.

Meanwhile, a separate report from the University of Michigan showed a much bigger than expected improvement in consumer sentiment in September.

The report said the consumer sentiment index jumped to 100.8 in September from 96.2 in August. Economists had expected the index to inch up to 96.6.

The Federal Reserve also released a report showing industrial production rose by slightly more than expected in the month of August.

The Fed said industrial production climbed by 0.4 percent in August, matching the upwardly revised increase in July.

Economists had expected production to rise by 0.3 percent compared to the 0.1 percent uptick originally reported for the previous month.

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

Brokerage, semiconductor and transportation stocks are seeing notable strength, while weakness is visible among interest rate-sensitive utilities and real estate stocks.

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 1.2 percent, while Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index jumped by 1 percent.

The major European markets have also moved to the upside on the day. While the U.K.'s FTSE 100 Index has edged up by 0.2 percent, the French CAC 40 Index and the German DAX Index are both up by 0.5 percent.

In the bond market, treasuries have moved lower after ending the previous session roughly flat. As a result, the yield on the benchmark ten-year note, which moves opposite of its price, is up by 3.3 basis points at 2.996 percent.

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