Belfast Telegraph

US stock indexes are mixed as Nasdaq ekes out another record high

Even on a day when the major US stock indexes barely budged, the market notched another milestone.

The Nasdaq composite eked out a gain, pushing the tech-heavy index to its second record-high close in a row.

The Dow Jones industrial average and Standard & Poor's 500 index drifted in the opposite direction, closing slightly in the red.

Supermarket chains and other consumer-focused companies were among the biggest decliners. Traders bid up shares in energy, technology and airline companies. Crude oil prices rose.

New figures on job openings and a report used by the Federal Reserve to gauge the health of businesses did little to move the market, which has been in a wait-and-see mode as investors gauge the likelihood of further intervention by the Fed.

"We get a favourable data point and shortly thereafter we get one that suggests we're still in a very low-growth environment," said Eric Wiegand, senior portfolio manager at the Private Client Reserve at US Bank.

"We're not seeing tremendous volume or tremendous conviction on either side, from either sellers or buyers."

The Dow dropped 11.98 points, or 0.1%, to 18,526.14. The S&P 500 index slipped 0.32 points, or 0.01%, to 2,186.16. The Nasdaq gained 8.02 points, or 0.2%, to 5,283.93.

A run of weak US economic data has reduced expectations that the Federal Reserve will raise interest rates again soon, which would be a potential boon for stocks.

However, if the central bank opts to hold off on a rate increase, it could suggest expectations of sluggish economic growth and a dimmer outlook for corporate earnings, which is bad for stocks.

On Wednesday, investors got a mixed bag of economic news. The Fed's latest "Beige Book" survey of business conditions indicated that the economy grew at a moderate or modest pace this summer in eight of the central bank's 12 US districts. The findings represent a slowdown from previous reports.

Separately, the Labour Department said job openings jumped 4% in July. Another government report last Friday showed that employers pulled back on hiring in August.

Benchmark US crude oil futures rose 67 cents, or 1.5%, to close at 45.50 dollars a barrel in New York. Brent crude, the benchmark for international oil prices, added 72 cents, or 1.5%, to close at 47.98 dollars a barrel in London.

The pick-up in crude prices gave energy stocks a boost. The sector eked out the biggest gain in the S&P 500 index, rising 0.3%. It is up 15.5% this year.

Technology stocks also rose, led by digital storage drive manufacturer Western Digital. The stock jumped 5.75, or 12.1%, to 53.30 dollars. Rival Seagate Technology added 2.04 dollars, or 5.9%, to 36.51 dollars.

Apple shares moved higher as the company announced new iPhone models that are water and dust resistant. Analysts say the new iPhones could help Apple recover modestly from a recent dip in sales. The stock added 66 cents, or 0.6%, to 108.36 dollars.

Apple also announced that Nintendo's Super Mario Runs game will be available on the iPhone. That news sent US-traded shares in Nintendo up 8.12 dollars, or 28.8%, to 36.32 dollars. Nintendo had previously resisted releasing Mario games to mobile phones.