Belfast Telegraph

US stocks close down after subdued trading

A subdued day of trading on Wall Street ended with stocks closing mostly lower even as the Nasdaq composite notched another record high.

Utilities, phone companies and other high dividend-paying stocks were among the biggest decliners.

Energy stocks also fell along with a drop in the price of crude oil.

Technology companies climbed the most, while financials managed a small gain.

Investors sized up the latest crop of company earnings and new data on home construction and industrial production.

"The economic data that we've seen today is sort of what we've seen the last few weeks, some good, some bad," said Jim Davis, regional investment strategist at the Private Client Group at US Bank.

The Standard & Poor's 500 index dipped 1.65 points, or 0.1%, to 2,400.67. The Dow Jones industrial average slid 2.19 points, or 0.01%, to 20,979.75, while the Nasdaq gained 20.20 points, or 0.3%, to 6,169.87.

The tech-heavy index and the S&P 500 each hit new highs on Monday.

The Russell 2000 index of smaller stocks rose 0.76 points, or 0.1%, to 1,394.68. More stocks fell than rose on the New York Stock Exchange.

The stock indexes headed higher early on Tuesday but spent much of the day trading in a narrow range, wavering between small gains and losses.

The Federal Reserve provided some positive economic news, reporting that industrial production at US factories, mines and utilities shot up 1% in April from March.

That was the biggest gain since February 2014 and the third monthly gain in a row. The increase was more than twice what economists had expected.

A separate report on residential construction was less encouraging.

The Commerce Department said home construction fell for a second straight month in April, marking the slowest pace in five months.

Housing starts slid 2.6% to a seasonally-adjusted annual rate of 1.17 million units. The weakness was led by a big drop in construction of apartments, a volatile sector.

Traders also had their eye on the latest crop of quarterly results from companies.

Home Depot got a small boost after topping expectations for profit and revenue in the first quarter, and it also raised its profit outlook for the year. The stock gained 93 cents, or 0.6%, to 158.26 US dollars (£122).

"Home-improvement and beauty retailers are really where the strength is within the retail sector, and of course, online," said Lindsey Bell, investment strategist at CFRA.

Chipmaker Advanced Micro Devices was the biggest gainer in the S&P 500, surging 1.33 US dollars (£1.02), or 11.7%, to 12.75 US dollars (£9.87).

Energy prices declined on Tuesday, giving back some of the gains from a day earlier on news that a group of oil-producing countries had cut production in hopes of supporting the price of oil.

Benchmark US crude slipped 19 cents to close at 48.66 US dollars (£37.67) a barrel in New York. Brent crude, used to price international oils, lost 17 cents to settle at 51.65 US dollars (£39.98) a barrel in London.

AP

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