RTTNews - After a slow start, stocks saw choppy movement over the course of Friday's session and finished on a mixed note to close out the week. The major averages closed on opposite sides of the unchanged mark, with the day's moves limited by yet another low volume outing.
Some pessimism was generated by a report released by Reuters and the University of Michigan showing that consumer sentiment in the month of July deteriorated by much more than anticipated. The decrease likely came following a string of disappointing employment reports that elevated concerns about the already embattled job market.
The report showed that the preliminary reading on the consumer sentiment index for July came in at 64.6 compared the final reading of 70.8 for June. Economists had been expecting a more modest decrease to a reading of about 70.0.
Earlier, traders shrugged off data from the Commerce Department showing a narrower than expected trade deficit for May and a separate report from the Labor Department that revealed a jump in import prices in June.
Meanwhile, General Motors Corp. (GMGMQ.PK) CEO Fritz Henderson announced in a press conference this morning that the new General Motors is beginning its operations as a new entity.
The new GM is majority-owned by the U.S. government, which holds a 61 percent stake in the company. The remaining shares will be held by a United Auto Workers union healthcare trust, the governments of Canada and Ontario, and GM's former unsecured bondholders.
The major averages saw some upside in late session dealing, with only the Nasdaq being able to climb into positive territory. The tech-heavy Nasdaq was able to finish higher by 3.48 points or 0.2 percent at 1,756.03, while the Dow fell by 36.65 points or 0.5 percent to 8,146.52 and the S&P 500 dipped by 3.55 points or 0.4 percent to 879.13.
For the week the, Dow fell by 1.6 percent, the Nasdaq slipped 2.3 percent and the S&P 500 dropped by 1.9 percent.
Oil stocks turned in some of the day's worst performances, with the NYSE Arca Oil Index posting a loss of 1.3 percent for the day. The day's decline dragged the index down to its worst closing level in well over two months. The losses by oil stocks came amid a drop in the price of crude oil, which fell $0.52 to $59.89 per barrel.
Housing stocks also fell by notable margins, with the Philadelphia Housing Sector Index sliding by 1.4 percent on the day. With the pullback, the index offset part of Thursday's gain, lingering near a three-month closing low set on Wednesday.
Weakness was also visible among healthcare provider and health insurance stocks, which have seen choppy trading in recent weeks. The lack of conviction comes amid mixed signals from Washington, where lawmakers are debating healthcare reform.
On the other hand, airline stocks posted some of the strongest gains, with the NYSE Arca Airline Index rising by 2.3 percent on the session. The index was boosted by shares of Alaska Air, which surged by 8.1 percent. The upward move helped Alaska Air finish at its best price in nearly three months.
Trucking and railroad stocks also rose, as reflected by the 1.5 percent climb shown by the Dow Jones Trucking Average and a 1.1 percent advance by the Dow Jones Railroads Index. With the gains, the indices were able to take back some of their recent losses.
Some technology stocks also moved higher, helping to propel the tech-heavy Nasdaq index up by a slim margin. Electronic storage stocks posting notable gains, with the NYSE Arca Disk Drive Index moving up by 1.1 percent on the day.
JP Morgan Chase (JPM) led the Dow lower, falling by 3.8 percent on the day. Despite the notable downward move, shares of the financial giant remain in a roughly two-month trading range.
Chevron (CVX) also turned in one of the Dow's worst performances, with the oil giant retreating by 2.7 percent, closing at a four-month low.
The loss by Chevron came after the company announced that its U.S. refining margins for the second quarter fell sharply and that it expects its downstream results for the quarter to be significantly lower compared to the previous reporting period.
Further, Exxon Mobil (XOM) slid by 1.3 percent and extended its losses for a fourth straight session. The retreat dragged the stock down to its worst closing price in well over two months.
While Merck (MRK), IBM Corp. (IBM), and Wal-Mart (WMT) also saw notable moves to the downside, strong gains by American Express (AXP), Alcoa (AA), 3M (MMM) and Kraft Foods (KFT) helped to limit the downside for the Dow.
In overseas trading, stock markets across the Asia-Pacific region ended Friday's session mostly lower. Japan's benchmark Nikkei 225 Index closed down by less than a tenth of a percent, while Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index slipped by 0.5 percent on the day.
The major European markets also finished on the downside, with the German DAX Index and the French CAC 40 Index closing down by 1.2 percent and 1.4 percent, respectively. The U.K.'s FTSE 100 Index also fell, posting a loss of 0.8 percent for the session.
In the bond markets, treasuries saw strong gains following the worse than expected data on consumer confidence. Subsequently, the benchmark ten-year note closed at 3.295 percent, a loss of 11.8 basis points on the day.
The equity markets are likely to be locked into the slew of earnings on tap for next week while also looking to data on retail sales, producer and consumer prices, housing starts and weekly employment to guide trading.
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