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Stocks Close Roughly Flat Following Choppy Trading Day - U.S. Commentary

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With traders seemingly reluctant to make any significant moves, stocks showed a lack of direction over the course of the trading session on Friday. The major averages spent the day bouncing back and forth across the unchanged line.

The major averages eventually ended the day roughly flat. While the Nasdaq inched up 0.24 points or less than a tenth of a percent to 5,901.00, the Dow slipped 19.93 points or 0.1 percent to 20,914.62 and the S&P 500 dipped 3.13 points or 0.1 percent to 2,378.25.

For the week, the Nasdaq advanced by 0.7 percent, while the Dow and the S&P 500 edged up by 0.1 percent and 0.2 percent, respectively.

The choppy trading on Wall Street came as traders continued to digest Wednesday's closely watched monetary announcement from the Federal Reserve.

The Fed announced a widely anticipated quarter point increase in interest rates and projected two additional rate hikes this year.

A meeting of G20 finance ministers and central bank governors being held in Germany over the next two days also kept some traders on the sidelines.

Given the protectionist views of the Trump administration, it remains to be seen whether the final statement from the meeting will contain a pledge to resist all forms of protectionism.

Traders largely shrugged off the latest batch of U.S. economic data, including a report from the Fed showing that industrial production was unexpectedly flat in February.

The Fed said industrial production was unchanged in February after edging down by a revised 0.1 percent in January. Economists had expected production to rise by 0.2 percent.

A jump in mining output and a continued increase in manufacturing output were offset by another slump in utilities output amid unseasonably warm weather.

The University of Michigan released a separate report showing a bigger than expected rebound in consumer sentiment in March.

The preliminary report showed that the consumer sentiment index rose to 97.6 in March after dropping to 96.3 in February. Economists had expected the index to rise to 97.0.

Sector News

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

Brokerage stocks saw notable weakness, however, with the NYSE Arca Broker/Dealer Index sliding by 1.3 percent. The index pulled back after showing a strong move to the upside in the two previous sessions.

Steel, banking, and biotechnology stocks also moved to the downside on the day, while some strength was visible among chemical and utilities stocks.

Other Markets

In overseas trading, stock markets across the Asia-Pacific region turned in a mixed performance during trading on Friday. Japan's Nikkei 225 Index fell by 0.4 percent, while Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index inched up by 0.1 percent.

Meanwhile, the major European markets all moved modestly higher on the day. While the French CAC 40 Index rose by 0.3 percent, the U.K.'s FTSE 100 Index and the German DAX Index both edged up by 0.1 percent.

In the bond market, treasuries moved back to the upside following the modest pullback seen on Thursday. Subsequently, the yield on the benchmark ten-year note, which moves opposite of its price, dipped by 2.1 basis points to 2.501 percent.

Looking Ahead

Following the slew of economic data released over the past week along with the Fed announcement, the economic calendar for next week is relatively quiet.

Nonetheless, traders are likely to keep an eye on reports on new and existing home sales and durable goods orders as well as speeches by a number of Fed officials.

by RTT Staff Writer

For comments and feedback: editorial@rttnews.com

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