RTTNews - Following a muted reaction to some encouraging news this morning, stocks finished on a mixed note on Friday. The week's trading was slowed by below average volume, which prompted limited movement in the equity markets. Some investors have moved to the sidelines ahead of the usual calm of the summer season.
Earlier, trading on the New York Stock Exchange was disrupted by a breakdown in three servers, halting trading in 240 stocks. Several companies were forced to stop trading for a limited period, including Bank of America (BAC), General Electric (GE), Exxon Mobil (XOM) and Merck (MRK).
On the economic front, consumer sentiment continued to improve in the month of June, according to a report released by Reuters and the University of Michigan, although the reading rose by less than expected.
The report showed that the preliminary reading of the consumer sentiment index for June came in at 69.0 compared to a reading of 68.7 in May. Economists had been expecting a somewhat more notable increase to a reading of 69.5.
Separately, a report from the Labor Department showed that import prices climbed by 1.3 percent in May, compared to a 1.1 percent increase in April. Export prices also rose, climbing by 0.6 percent in May following an increase of 0.4 percent in the previous month.
Compared to the same month a year ago, import prices fell 17.6 percent, while export prices slipped by 6.5 percent.
In other news, White House National Economic Council Director Larry Summers stated that the goal of the Obama administration is to end its involvement in private industry as soon as possible. Speaking at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York, Summers said that the interventions were necessary and called for a new approach to too big to fail.
On the corporate front, investment management company BlackRock (BLK) said Thursday evening that it has agreed to acquire Barclays Global Investors, the asset management arm of U.K.-based financial services provider Barclays (BCS) for $13.5 billion.
The deal also includes iShares, Barclays' exchange traded fund platform. The cash and stock transaction will create the world's largest asset management firm with total combined assets managed of over $2.7 trillion.
Some buying interest was sparked in mid-afternoon trading amid reports that former Iranian Prime Minister Mirhossein Mousavi has claimed victory in the Iranian presidential elections, although current president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has since claimed victory as well.
Earlier reports indicated that voters in Iran displayed great interest in the country's presidential election, with an unprecedented turnout reported from polling stations.
In Tehran, long lines of voters formed even before the polling stations were opened. Iran's youth, making up a significant part of the 46.2 million-strong electorate, were expected to play a major role in determining who will head the Islamic nation.
The major averages eventually ended the session on opposite sides of the unchanged line. While the Nasdaq closed down 3.57 points or 0.2 percent at 1,858.80, the Dow closed up 28.34 points or 0.3 percent at 8,799.26 and the S&P 500 closed up 1.32 points or 0.1 percent at 946.21.
Despite the mixed performance for the session, the major averages all posted modest weekly gains. The Dow rose 0.4 percent for the week, while the Nasdaq and the S&P 500 posted weekly gains of 0.5 percent and 0.7 percent, respectively.
The major sectors turned in a roughly mixed performance, contributing to the lack of conviction seen in the major averages.
Healthcare provider stocks saw a notable retreat on the day, with the Morgan Stanley Healthcare Provider Index slipping by 4.1 percent on the day. The day's decline led the index to its lowest closing level in three weeks, continuing to back away from an eight-month high.
Resource stocks also declined significantly on the day, with the NYSE Arca Gold Bugs Index dropping by 3.3 percent. With the decline, the index pulled back further off the ten-month closing high posted set this month.
Considerable weakness was also visible among steel, oil service and natural gas stocks, as traders did some profit taking in commodities following the recent rally.
Meanwhile, real estate and railroad stocks posted strong gains, with the Morgan Stanley Real Estate Index and the Dow Jones Railroads Index rising by 3.4 percent and 2.9 percent, respectively. The railroads index was boosted to its best closing level since early January.
Electronic storage stocks also saw considerable upside, with the NYSE Arca Disk Drive Index rising by 1.4 percent on the session. With the advance, the index reached its best closing level in eight months.
Utility, banking and brokerage stocks also moved higher over the course of the trading day.
Most of the Dow components finished the day in positive territory, contributing to the modest gain shown by the blue chip index.
Microsoft (MSFT) saw a notable upward move, rising by 2.2 percent on the day, adding to its recent gains. With the climb, shares of the software giant closed at their best level in over seven months.
Bank of America (BAC) also turned in one of the day's best performances, rising by 5.8 percent. The day's gains propelled the stock to its highest closing price in over a month.
Boeing (BA) and Hewlett Packard (HPQ) also posted considerable gains, rising by 1.5 and 1.4 percent, respectively.
Meanwhile, one of the Dow's worst performances was turned in by Alcoa (AA), which fell by 1.9 percent on the day. With the decline, shares of the aluminum producer backed off of the seven-month closing high set in the previous session.
Further, shares of American Express (AXP) and IBM (IBM) lost 1.8 and 1.1 percent, respectively. With the declines, the stocks pulled back further off the multi-month closing highs set earlier this week.
In overseas trading, stock markets across the Asia-Pacific region ended Friday's session largely on the upside. Japan's benchmark Nikkei 225 Index closed up by 1.6 percent, while Hong Kong's Hang Seng finished up by 0.5 percent.
Meanwhile, the major European markets closed on the downside. The German DAX Index finished down by 0.7 percent and the French CAC 40 Index fell by 0.3 percent. The U.K.'s FTSE 100 Index also declined, finishing lower by 0.5 percent.
In the bond markets, treasuries ended the day higher. Subsequently, the yield on the benchmark ten-year note closed at 3.78 percent, a drop of 7.4 basis points on the day.
Looking ahead to next week, trading is likely to be impacted by data on housing starts, producer and consumer prices, and weekly jobless claims.
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