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US: S&P 500, Dow end session flat, tech boosts Nasdaq

Wednesday, May 17, 2017 - 06:07

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[NEW YORK] The S&P 500 and the Dow ended Tuesday's session flat after mixed economic data and retail earnings, while the Nasdaq had another record close with help from technology stocks.

US manufacturing production showed its biggest increase in more than three years in April, bolstering a view that economic growth picked up early in the second quarter despite a surprise decline in homebuilding.

Investors were also cautious about potential delays to the government's tax and regulation reform agenda after reports late Monday that President Donald Trump disclosed highly classified information to Russia's foreign minister about a planned Islamic State operation.

"There's a lot of political data but not a lot of economic data that's changing the landscape," said Paul Nolte, portfolio manager at Kingsview Asset Management in Chicago.

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Home improvement chain Home Depot reported a better-than-expected first-quarter performance, but TJX Cos Inc, owner of TJ Maxx and Marshalls stores, posted slowing comparable-store sales growth and a disappointing current-quarter profit forecast.

"It's a combination of earnings and better-than-expected industrial production, countered with concerns about future economic data and the fact we continue to see weak retail sales," said Kate Warne, investment strategist at Edward Jones in St Louis.

"With the consumer being more than two-thirds of economic growth, if consumer spending is weak, can we continue to see solid economic growth?" The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed down 2.19 points, or 0.01 per cent, to 20,979.75, and the S&P 500 lost 1.65 points, or 0.07 per cent, to 2,400.67, easing from an intraday record high of 2,405.77.

The Nasdaq Composite added 20.20 points, or 0.33 per cent, to 6,169.87, a record close for the index.

Only two of the 11 major S&P 500 sectors closed higher, with technology providing the biggest boost. The sector rose 0.5 per cent, with an outsized boost from Microsoft, which rose 2 per cent.

Soros Fund Management disclosed late Monday that it more than tripled its stake in Microsoft, which also benefited from investors' focus on security.

"A lot of technology right now is driven by worries about cyber security, as investors believe more companies will have to upgrade their computer systems," said Edward Jones' Warne.

Authorities around the globe scrambled to prevent hackers from spreading the "WannaCry" ransomware that has infected more than 300,000 computers in 150 countries. Cyber security researchers have found evidence they say could link the attacks to North Korea.

The S&P's financial sector ended the day with a 0.2 per cent gain. Utilities were the S&P's biggest decliner of the day with a 0.8 per cent drop.

UnitedHealth and Pfizer were the S&P's biggest drags. Pfizer fell 1.6 per cent to US$32.60 after Citigroup downgraded the drug developer's stock to "sell", from "neutral". Declining issues outnumbered advancing ones on the NYSE by a 1.24-to-1 ratio; on Nasdaq, a 1.01-to-1 ratio favoured decliners.

The S&P 500 posted 61 new 52-week highs and 12 new lows; the Nasdaq Composite recorded 133 new highs and 60 new lows.

About 6.4 billion shares changed hands on US exchanges compared with the 6.8 billion average for the last 20 sessions.

REUTERS

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