US stocks fluctuate in afternoon trade but generally close lower

(RTTNews) – After coming under pressure in morning trading on Friday, stocks fluctuated in the afternoon but still ended the day firmly in negative territory. Major averages extended the sharp decline seen on Thursday, with the Dow Jones ending the session at its lowest closing level since early December.

The Dow Jones and S&P 500 briefly peeked above the unchanged level in late trading, but fell as the close approached. The Dow Jones slid 232.85 points or 0.7% to 34,079.18, the Nasdaq fell 168.65 points or 1.2% to 13,548.07 and the S&P 500 fell 31.39 points or 0.7% at 4,348.87.

For the week, the Dow Jones and Nasdaq plunged 1.9% and 1.8% respectively, while the S&P 500 fell 1.6%.

Wall Street’s continued weakness came amid lingering geopolitical concerns as the Ukrainian government and Russian state-controlled media continued to trade accusations of ceasefire violations in the east of the country.

News that Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken have agreed to meet in Europe next week has eased concerns about an imminent Russian invasion of Ukraine, but traders remain cautious.

Traders may have been reluctant to take large positions ahead of the long weekend due to the Presidents Day holiday on Monday.

Uncertainty over the outlook for monetary policy also continued to weigh on markets ahead of an anticipated interest rate hike by the Federal Reserve next month.

On the US economic front, the National Association of Realtors released a report showing an unexpectedly strong increase in existing home sales in January.

NAR said existing home sales climbed 6.7% to an annual rate of 6.50 million in January after falling 3.8% to a revised rate of 6.09 million in December.

The substantial rebound surprised economists, who had expected existing home sales to fall 1.3% to a rate of 6.10 million from the 6.18 million originally forecast for the previous month.

With the unexpected jump, existing home sales hit their highest annual rate since hitting 6.65 million in January 2021.

Meanwhile, a separate report released by the Conference Board showed an unexpected pullback in its reading of leading US economic indicators.

The Conference Board said its main economic index fell 0.3% in January after climbing a lower-revised 0.7% in December.

The drop came as a surprise to economists, who had expected the index to rise 0.3% from the 0.8% rise originally reported for the previous month.

Industry news

Oil services stocks showed significant downward movement during the day, dragging the Philadelphia Oil Services Index down 2.1%.

The weakness in oil services stocks came amid falling crude oil prices, with crude for March delivery falling $0.69 to $91.07 a barrel.

Considerable weakness was also visible among telecom stocks, as evidenced by the 1.4% decline in the NYSE Arca North American Telecom Index.

Airline, tobacco and semiconductor stocks also posted notable moves lower, while most other major sectors ended the day with more modest declines.

Other markets

In overseas trading, stock markets in the Asia-Pacific region posted a mixed performance in Friday’s session. Japan’s Nikkei 225 index fell 0.4%, while China’s Shanghai Composite index climbed 0.7%.

Meanwhile, major European markets all traded lower during the session. While Germany’s DAX index fell 1.5%, Britain’s FTSE 100 index and France’s CAC 40 index both fell 0.3%.

In the bond market, Treasuries extended the notable upward movement seen in the previous session. As a result, the yield on the benchmark ten-year note, which moves opposite to its price, fell 4 basis points to 1.932%.

Look forward

Developments in Ukraine over the long weekend are expected to impact trading early next week, while traders should also keep an eye on reports on consumer confidence, personal income and spending and durable goods orders.

The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

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