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US: Despite rising banks, US stocks split


[NEW YORK] Wall Street treaded water on Friday, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average finishing lower for a second day in a row despite healthy profits from major banks.

US stocks continued to feel the disappointment with President-elect Donald Trump's news conference on Wednesday, where he failed to offer specifics on any economic stimulus, tax cuts or deregulation. Hopes for these business-friendly policy changes had been behind the market rally since the election.

The blue-chip Dow finished down less than 0.1 per cent at 19,885.73, while the broader S&P 500 gained 0.2 per cent to 2,274.64 and the Nasdaq rose 0.5 per cent to finish at 5,574.12.

"The market has run out of upside catalysts for the near term," said Tom Cahill of Ventura Wealth Management. "Investors were a little disappointed with Trump's press conference as he didn't really address economic policies and there were some hopes he would."

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Commerce Department figures released early Friday showed that retail spending rebounded in December, rising 0.6 per cent, but were driven by strong auto sales. Department store sales fell 0.6 per cent as shoppers increasingly turned to the internet to buy goods.

Chief among the Dow's losers, retail giant Wall-Mart Stores Inc dropped 1.2 per cent, Target, gave up 1.5 per cent and Sears lost 0.8 per cent.

Financials were another story, however, as bank earnings reports for 2016 released before the opening bell provided good news.

Wells Fargo saw shares rise 1.5 per cent, despite reporting a 4.2 per cent decline in net profit for 2016. The bank is fresh off its sham accounts scandal, in which it admitted to opening millions of credit and debit accounts in customers' names without their knowledge.

Wall Street behemoth JP Morgan Chase, which saw 2016 profits up 1.2 per cent, rose 0.5 per cent, while Bank of America gained 0.4 per cent after posting a 13 per cent year-on-year increase in net profit last year.