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U.S. Stocks Little Changed In Mid-Day Trading

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After showing a lack of direction early in the session, stocks continue to turn in a lackluster performance in mid-day trading on Friday. The major averages are showing only modest moves after ending the previous session mixed.

Currently, the major averages are on opposite sides of the unchanged line. While the Nasdaq is down 26.14 points or 0.2 percent at 11,016.36, the Dow is up 47.94 points or 0.2 percent at 27,944.66 and the S&P 500 is up 2.60 points or 0.1 percent at 3,376.03.

Traders seem reluctant to make more significant moves amid uncertainty about the near-term outlook for the markets.

The S&P 500 once again failed to reach a new record high during trading on Thursday, raising concerns recent upward momentum on Wall Street may have reached its limit.

With earnings season largely in the rear-view mirror and talks about a new coronavirus relief bill at a stalemate, traders may be unsure about the next catalyst to drive the markets.

Traders are also digesting a slew of U.S. economic data, including a report from the Commerce Department showing retail sales jumped by less than expected in July amid a pullback in auto sales.

The Commerce Department said retail sales advanced by 1.2 percent in July after soaring by an upwardly revised 8.4 percent in June.

Economists had expected retail sales to jump by 1.9 percent compared to the 7.5 percent spike originally reported for the previous month.

Excluding sales by motor vehicle and parts dealers, retail sales surged up by 1.9 percent in July after skyrocketing by 8.3 percent in June. Ex-auto sales were expected to increase by 1.3 percent.

Meanwhile, the Federal Reserve released a report showing a jump in U.S. industrial production in the month of July that matched economist estimates.

The Fed said industrial production surged up by 3.0 percent in July after soaring by an upwardly revised 5.7 percent in June.

Economists had expected production to jump by 3.0 percent compared to the 5.4 percent spike originally reported for the previous month.

Despite the substantial increases seen over the past two months, the Fed noted production is still 8.4 percent below its pre-pandemic February level.

A preliminary reading released by the University of Michigan unexpectedly showed a slight improvement in U.S. consumer sentiment in the month of August.

The report said the consumer sentiment index inched up to 72.8 in August from 72.5 in July. The uptick surprised economists, who had expected the index to edge down to 72.0.

Sector News

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

Natural gas stocks have moved sharply higher, however, with the NYSE Arca Natural Gas Index surging up by 2.9 percent.

A substantial increase by the price of natural gas is contributing to the strength in the sector, with natural gas for September delivery spiking $0.177 or 8.1 percent to$2.359 per million BTUs.

Financial stocks are also seeing notable strength on the day, with the KBW Bank Index and the NYSE Arca Broker/Dealer Index climbing by 1.3 percent and 1.2 percent, respectively.

On the other hand, significant weakness remains visible among gold stock, as reflected by the 1.6 percent drop by the NYSE Arca Gold Bugs Index.

The weakness among gold stocks comes amid a steep drop by the price of the precious metal, with gold for December delivery tumbling $22.40 to $1,948 an ounce.

Other Markets

In overseas trading, stock markets across the Asia-Pacific region turned in another mixed performance during trading on Friday. Japan's Nikkei 225 Index crept up by 0.2 percent, while Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index edged down by 0.2 percent.

Meanwhile, the major European markets all moved to the downside on the day. While the German DAX Index slid by 0.7 percent, the U.K.'s FTSE 100 Index and the French CAC 40 Index both slumped by 1.6 percent.

In the bond market, treasuries are regaining ground after trending lower over the past several sessions. Subsequently, the yield on the benchmark ten-year note, which moves opposite of its price, is down by 2.3 basis points at 0.693 percent.

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