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U.S. Stocks Fluctuate But Maintain Positive Bias

wallstreet july19 17jan20 lt

After showing an early move to the upside, stocks have fluctuated over the course of the trading session on Friday. The major averages briefly pulled back into negative territory but have climbed back above the unchanged line since then.

Currently, the major averages are clinging to modest gains. The Dow is up 32.00 points or 0.1 percent at 29,329.64, the Nasdaq is up 4.80 points or 0.1 percent at 9,361.93 and the S&P 500 is up 7.01 points or 0.2 percent at 3,323.82.

The early strength on Wall Street was widely attributed to Chinese GDP data even though the latest report showed China's economy grew at the slowest pace since 1990.

The report from China's National Bureau of Statistics said Chinese GDP grew by 6.1 percent in 2019 compared to the 6.6 percent growth seen in 2018.

However, the GDP growth matched economist estimates, which seems to have allowed global traders to breathe a sigh of relief that the impact of the U.S.-China trade war was not worse than feared.

More upbeat U.S. economic data also generated buying interest, with a report from the Commerce Department showing a substantial increase in U.S. housing starts in the month of December.

The Commerce Department said housing starts skyrocketed by 16.9 percent to an annual rate of 1.608 million in December after jumping by 2.6 percent to a revised rate of 1.375 million in November.

The surge came as a big surprise to economists, who had expected housing starts to rise by 0.7 percent to a rate of 1.375 million from the 1.365 million originally reported for the previous month.

With the much bigger than expected increase, housing starts soared to their highest level since hitting a rate of 1.649 million in December of 2006.

Meanwhile, the Federal Reserve released a report before the start of trading showing a modest pullback in U.S. industrial production in the month of December.

The Fed said industrial production fell by 0.3 percent in December after climbing by a downwardly revised 0.8 percent in November.

Economists had expected industrial production to dip by 0.2 percent compared to the 1.1 percent jump originally reported for the previous month.

The pullback in production came as utilities output plunged by 5.6 percent in December, with unseasonably warm weather leading to a large decrease in demand for heating.

Most of the major sectors continue to show only modest moves in mid-day trading, contributing to the lackluster performance by the broader markets.

Computer hardware stocks have shown a notable move to the downside, however, with the NYSE Arca Computer Hardware Index falling by 1.2 percent after ending the previous session at a record closing high.

Some weakness is also visible among gold stocks, which are moving lower despite an increase by the price of the precious metal.

In overseas trading, stock markets across the Asia-Pacific region moved mostly higher during trading on Friday. Japan's Nikkei 225 Index climbed by 0.5 percent, while Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index advanced by 0.6 percent.

The major European markets also moved to the upside on the day. While the French CAC 40 Index surged up by 1 percent, the U.K.'s FTSE 100 Index jumped by 0.9 percent and the German DAX Index rose by 0.7 percent.

In the bond market, treasuries are extending the pullback seen over the course of the previous session. As a result, the yield on the benchmark ten-year note, which moves opposite of its price, is up by 2.5 basis points at 1.834 percent.

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