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Late burst of buying on Wall Street leaves indexes mixed

Late burst of buying on Wall Street leaves indexes mixed

February 9th, 2019 by the Associated Press in Business

Trader Gregory Rowe works on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, Friday, Feb. 8, 2019. Stocks are opening lower on Wall Street as a mixed bag of earnings reports didn't inspire investors to get back to buying stocks. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)

U.S. stock indexes stemmed an early slide Friday, finishing mostly higher and nudging the benchmark S&P 500 index to its second weekly gain in a row.

Gains in technology and consumer goods companies outweighed losses in financial stocks and retailers as investors continued to size up the latest batch of quarterly corporate snapshots.

Prior to a late-afternoon flurry of buying, the market had been on pace to finish lower as investors hit pause following a tumultuous two months where the index followed up its worst December since 1931 with its best January in three decades.

“Earnings are coming in good — we’re seeing over 15 percent growth — but there are some concerns about the next quarter that growth is going to be pretty close to zero,” said Karyn Cavanaugh, senior markets strategist at Voya Investment Management.

The S&P 500 rose 1.83 points, or 0.1 percent, to 2,707.88. The Dow Jones Industrial Average lost 63.20 points, or 0.3 percent, to 25,106.33.

The Nasdaq composite added 9.85 points, or 0.1 percent, to 7,298.20. The Russell 2000 index of smaller companies picked up 0.77 points, or 0.1 percent, to 1,506.39. Major stock indexes in Europe finished lower.

Traders have been worried about predicted slowdowns in economies around the world, with trade tensions between the United States and China adding to the strain. Warnings about slower growth from Europe and the United Kingdom earlier this week hit hard, helping to derail a five-day winning streak for the S&P 500.

It hasn’t been all bad news, however. Companies have been reporting better-than-expected earnings for the last three months of 2018, and the Federal Reserve has indicated it will take a more patient approach to raising interest rates. Still, concerns are building about whether profits can keep growing this year, especially after companies’ strong gains in 2018 following a sweeping corporate tax cut.

“The markets are looking forward to an earning season that might be a little bit challenging for the first quarter, because they’re going to be having to jump over a higher bar,” Cavanaugh said.

Across the S&P 500, analysts are forecasting earnings per share to drop 1.8 percent in the first quarter from a year earlier. They were calling for growth just a few weeks ago, and if the updated forecasts prove true, it will be the first decline in nearly three years. Looking beyond the first quarter, earnings growth by S&P 500 companies is expected to grow 5 percent for all of 2019.

Technology stocks drove much of the market’s late-day recovery Friday, with Motorola Solutions leading the pack. The stock vaulted 14.1 percent.

Financial stocks took some of the heaviest losses and were hurt by a drop in interest rates, which can limit the profits they make from lending money. Morgan Stanley slid 1.6 percent.