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US market extends calm streak despite choppy week

The S&P 500 notched up its 10th day in a row without a gain or drop of 1% or more.

Despite a choppy week of trading and a mixed finish for US stocks, the market extended its recent streak of relative calm on Friday.

The S&P 500, the market’s benchmark index, notched up its 10th day in a row without a gain or drop of 1% or more.

That’s the longest stretch going back to January 26, when the market broke four and a half months of calm with a 1.2% gain, which also marked a record high.

Just one week later, the market entered an extended bout of volatility that included a rapid plunge of 10% in early February. That was the first “correction” the market had seen in two years.

Since then, the market has returned to quieter trading, even as US companies report fatter profits and investors grow anxious about rising interest rates and the threat of a trade war between the US and China.

“Now it feels like investors are paralysed trying to choose between a pretty solid economic picture and great earnings growth, and rising rates and ongoing geopolitical drama day-to-day,” said Craig Birk, executive vice president of portfolio management at Personal Capital.

The S&P 500 index fell 7.16 points, or 0.3%, to 2,712.97. The Dow Jones industrial average gained 1.11 points to 24,715.09. The Nasdaq composite lost 28.13 points, or 0.4%, to 7,354.34.

The Russell 2000 index of smaller-company stocks rose 1.34 points, or 0.1%, to 1,626.63, its third all-time high in a row.

The indexes finished the week in the red, but are still on track for gains this month, led by the Russell 2000.

Now it feels like investors are paralysed trying to choose between a pretty solid economic picture and great earnings growth, and rising rates and ongoing geopolitical drama day-to-day Craig Birk, Personal Capital

After a strong start to the month, markets have been choppy this week as investors turned the page on the first-quarter earnings reporting season and weighed the implications of the ongoing trade tensions between the US and China.

The countries, which have threatened tariffs on each other, were holding discussions aimed at averting a trade war between the world’s two biggest economies.

Traders have also been coming to grips with the yield on the 10-year Treasury note moving well past 3%. It hit 3.12% on Wednesday, its highest level in almost seven years.

“The issue of inflation is starting to rear its head again,” said Jeff Kravetz, regional investment strategist for US Bank Private Wealth Management.

“That’s got investors a bit nervous. And then we have the dollar strengthening and emerging markets weakening.”

Even so, the S&P 500 has remained on a narrow trading range, keeping volatility largely under wraps, at least for now.

On Friday, banks and technology companies were among the biggest decliners, offsetting gains by industrial and health care stocks. Energy companies also declined as crude oil prices closed lower.

Bond prices rose, sending yields lower. The yield on the 10-year Treasury fell to 3.06% from 3.12% late Thursday.

The pullback in bond yields, which affect interest rates on mortgages and other consumer loans, weighed on bank stocks. Citigroup fell 2.2% to $69.96.

Some companies’ latest quarterly results or outlooks also put investors in a selling mood Friday.

The issue of inflation is starting to rear its head again. That's got investors a bit nervous. Jeff Kravetz, US Bank Private Wealth Management

Campbell Soup plunged 12.4% to $34.37 after the packaged foods company lowered its profit forecast and said that chief executive Denise Morrison was retiring effective immediately.

The stock was the biggest decliner in the S&P 500 and had its worst single-day drop since 1999.

Nordstrom tumbled 10.9% to $45.36 after the upscale department store chain said sales at established stores, a key metric for retailers, showed meagre gains in the first quarter.

Applied Materials slumped 8.2% to $49.51 after the maker of chipmaking equipment forecast revenue for the current quarter that was below Wall Street’s estimates.

Industrials and health care stocks notched solid gains. Drugmaker Nektar Therapeutics led all stocks in the S&P 500, climbing 7.7% to $85.30.

Deere gained 5.7% to $155.25 after the agricultural and construction equipment maker forecast 35% growth in equipment sales for its third quarter.

PayPal Holdings added 2% to $80.79 on news that the company is buying Stockholm-based payment processing startup iZettle for $2.2 billion with the aim of expanding into Europe and Latin America.

PayPal Holdings added 2% to $80.79

Benchmark US crude oil fell 21 cents to settle at $71.28 a barrel in New York. Brent crude, used to price international oil, lost 79 cents to $78.51 a barrel in London.

The slide in oil prices was a drag on energy stocks. Range Resources slid 3.2% to $15.17.

Gold gained $1.90 to $1,291.30 an ounce. Silver slipped 3 cents to $16.46 an ounce. Copper dropped 3 cents to $3.06 a pound.

The dollar fell to 110.68 yen from 110.75 yen on Thursday. The euro weakened to $1.1773 from $1.1799.

In other energy futures trading, heating oil lost 2 cents to $2.27 a gallon. Wholesale gasoline slipped a penny to $2.23 a gallon. Natural gas gave up a penny to $2.85 per 1,000 cubic feet.

Major indexes in Europe fell. Germany’s DAX gave up 0.3 percent, while France’s CAC 40 slid 0.1%. Britain’s FTSE 100 lost 0.1%.

Asian stock markets finished mostly higher. Japan’s Nikkei 225 added 0.4% and South Korea’s Kospi index rose 0.5%. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index gained 0.3%.

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