Stock indexes turned mixed on Wall Street Friday afternoon, recouping much of their losses from earlier in the day, as the market closed out a choppy week ahead of a long holiday weekend in the U.S.
The S&P 500 was up 0.1% after having been down 0.5%. The index was still on track for a weekly gain. Strength in technology and communications stocks helped reverse the market's early slide. Energy stocks fell the most as crude oil prices closed lower after six straight gains. Bond yields were mixed.
After mounting a strong rebound in April, stocks have bounced around this week as traders look for signs pointing to the market’s direction.
“We’re in a bit of a hold right now looking for the next catalyst,” said Brian Levitt, global market strategist at Invesco. "There’s still an awful lot of uncertainty we have to work though.”
The Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped 54 points, or 0.2%, to 24,419. The Nasdaq composite was up 0.4%. Small company stocks, the biggest gainers so far this month, also recovered from an early slide, sending the Russell 2000 up 0.3%. U.S. stock markets will be closed Monday for the Memorial Day holiday.
The choppy trading on Wall Street followed a downbeat day in Asia. Hong Kong’s main index dropped 5.6% after China made more moves to limit political opposition in the former British colony. Beijing also abandoned its longstanding practice of setting economic growth targets. European markets shook off some early weakness and ended mixed.
The S&P 500 is on track to end the week with a big enough gain to make up for all of its losses from last week, thanks largely to a strong rally on Monday. The index is still down about 13% from its all-time high in February.
Fresh hopes for a U.S. economic recovery in the second half of the year and optimism about a potential vaccine for COVID-19 helped spur stocks higher for much of the week. Investors are betting that the economy and corporate profits will begin to recover from the coronavirus pandemic as the U.S. and countries around the world slowly open up again.
Traders remain wary, however, that the reopening of businesses could lead to another surge in infections, potentially hobbling efforts to get the nation's battered economy growing again.
Foot Locker slid 10.7% after the athletic footwear and apparel retailer reported quarterly results that fell well short of Wall Street's forecasts. Deere & Co. posted quarterly results that topped analysts' estimates, but its stock lost ground after an early gain, sliding 1.1%.
Oil prices fell, snapping a six-day winning streak. Benchmark U.S. crude oil fell 2% to settle at $33.25 a barrel. Brent crude oil, the international standard, fell 2.6% to settle at $35.13 a barrel.
Crude oil started the year at about $60 a barrel, but plummeted earlier this year as demand sank due to widespread travel and business shutdowns related to the coronavirus. The price has risen this month as oil producing nations cut back on output and the gradual reopening of economies around the globe have driven up demand.
Bonds yields were mixed. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note, a benchmark for interest rates on many consumer loans, fell to 0.66% from 0.67% late Thursday.
Beijing's move to take over long-stalled efforts to enact national security legislation in semi-autonomous Hong Kong spooked investors in Asian markets who have endured months of pro-democracy demonstrations last year that at times descended into violence between police and protesters.
The proposed bill is aimed at forbidding secessionist and subversive activity, as well as foreign interference and terrorism. Such proposals are certain to be approved by the largely ceremonial parliament.
The move has drawn strong rebukes from the U.S. government and rights groups.
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