US stocks stall as benchmark S&P 500 heads for weekly loss

Friday, May 21, 2021 | Damian J. Troise And Alex Veiga, AP Business Writers

In this Nov. 5, 2020 file photo, a sign for Wall Street is carved in the side of a building, in New York. Stocks are opening broadly higher on Wall Street, Friday, May 21, 2021, bringing the S&P 500 out of the red for the week. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan, File)

A choppy run of trading had stock indexes mostly higher Friday afternoon, though the S&P 500 was headed for its second straight weekly loss.

The S&P 500 was up 0.1% as of 3:46 p.m. Eastern after swinging between a 0.2% decline and a 0.7% gain. The benchmark index is on track for a 0.3% loss this week. The Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 150 points, or 0.4%, to 34,235 and the Nasdaq was 0.3% lower.

Gains for banks and health care companies were kept in check by drops in technology stocks. Investors remain focused on the possibility of inflation as the economy stirs to life following more than a year of shutdowns related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Inflation worries investors in part because it may cause central banks to pull back on their efforts to support job growth before the economic recovery is fully realized. The Federal Reserve has said it expects any bump in inflation to be temporary, though investors are uncertain about how hot inflation could become.

"The market is trying to digest signs of incipient inflation that may be more than transitory, with what the Fed's reaction might be," said Alicia Levine, chief strategist at BNY Mellon Investment Management.

Analysts have also said investors are looking further ahead, beyond the recovery, and wary about potential tax changes and the impact on growth.

The U.S. Treasury Department supports a global minimum corporate tax rate of at least 15% as part of an effort to end what it calls “a race to the bottom’’ as countries compete with each other to cut corporate tax rates and lure multinational companies.

Oatmilk maker Oatly rose another 8.9%, following the 19% climb it made a day earlier on its first day of trading.

Nvidia, the graphics card and chip manufacturer, rose 3.2% after the company announced a four-for-one stock split. Nvidia was one of the biggest gainers of 2020.

Solid earnings helped lift several companies. Foot Locker rose 4.2% after reporting solid first-quarter earnings and revenue. Agricultural equipment maker Deere gained 1.9% after beating Wall Street's fiscal second-quarter profit forecasts.

Treasury yields were mostly stable. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note fell to 1.62% from 1.63% late Thursday.

The price of Bitcoin also turned choppy following headlines out of China, where a government official said in a statement that the country is focused on cracking down on Bitcoin “mining and trading behavior.”

Earlier this week, the price of Bitcoin and other digital currencies fell sharply after China’s banking association issued a warning over the risks associated with digital currencies. The price of Bitcoin was down 7% to about $37,200, according to crypto news and information site Coindesk.

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