Wall Street ends slightly down, S&P positive for seventh week

NEW YORK Sat Feb 16, 2013 3:34am IST

1 of 6. Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, February 15, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Brendan McDermid

Stocks

   

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The S&P 500 dipped in a late decline on Friday as Wal-Mart dropped following a report of a weak start to February sales, though the index just barely extended its streak of weekly gains to seven.

Equities were little changed for much of the session, with investors finding few reasons to make big bets following an extended rally on Wall Street, but stocks turned lower in afternoon action.

Wal-Mart Stores Inc (WMT.N) dropped 2.1 percent to $69.30 after Bloomberg News reported a weak start to February sales, citing internal company e-mails. The stock was the biggest decliner on the Dow, while the S&P retail index .SPXRT fell 0.5 percent.

"When a retailer of this size comes out with this kind of lousy news, the whole market can fall off, especially on a Friday afternoon," said Mike Shea, trader at Direct Access Partners in New York. "However, I'm not worried that this is indicative of any larger macro issue with retail."

Equities have struggled for direction recently, with major indexes moving only slightly in the past several sessions. The S&P didn't end a session with a move greater than 0.2 percent at all this week.

The benchmark index, up 6.6 percent so far this year, is facing strong technical resistance near the 1,525 level. But investors, expecting the index to advance further in the quarter, have held back from locking in profits.

"There's no news that suggests the strong underpinning for stocks isn't appropriate. We may have gotten ahead of ourselves, but there's also an absence of bad news," said Mark Luschini, chief investment strategist at Janney Montgomery Scott in Philadelphia.

Many investors are starting to look ahead to a debate in Washington over sequestration, automatic across-the-board spending cuts put in place as part of a larger congressional budget fight. The cuts are due to kick in March 1 unless lawmakers agree to an alternative.

"This had been far enough out to not yet become an impediment for stocks, but it will start to move into the forefront and cause people to take a bit of a jaundiced eye towards the market," said Luschini, who helps oversee about $54 billion in assets.

The Dow Jones industrial average .DJI was up 11.27 points, or 0.08 percent, at 13,984.66. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index .SPX was up 0.32 points, or 0.02 percent, at 1,521.70. The Nasdaq Composite Index .IXIC was up 1.51 points, or 0.05 percent, at 3,200.17.

For the week, both the Dow and Nasdaq fell 0.1 percent while the S&P rose 0.1 percent in its seventh straight week of gains, a period during which the index rose 8.4 percent. The last such seven-week run was between December 2010 and January 2011.

The New York Federal Reserve said manufacturing in New York state expanded for the first time in seven months, while Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan's preliminary reading of consumer sentiment rose from the prior month and beat expectations.

But U.S. manufacturing fell in January after a rise in the prior month.

Wall Street's gain thus far in 2013 has largely been driven by strong corporate earnings, while data indicated some weakening in economic conditions.

A surge in merger and acquisition activity, with more than $158 billion in deals announced so far in 2013, has given further support to the equity market as it points to healthy valuations and bets on the economic outlook.

Herbalife (HLF.N) shares cut earlier gains to rise 1.2 percent to $38.74. Late Thursday, billionaire investor Carl Icahn said in a regulatory filing that he now owns 13 percent of Herbalife and was ready to put it in play.

MeadWestvaco Corp (MWV.N) climbed 12.5 percent to $35.65 as the biggest percentage gainer on the S&P index after activist investor Nelson Peltz's Trian Fund Management LP said it had bought about 1.6 million shares of the packaging company.

Burger King Worldwide (BKW.N) shares gained 4.7 percent to $17.36 after it beat estimates with a 94 percent rise in fourth-quarter profit, thanks to new menu additions.

Oil service stocks declined, weighed by a 5.1 percent drop in shares of Transocean (RIG.N) to $56.26, after the rig contractor reported its fleet update and Deutsche Bank cut its rating on the stock to "sell." The PHLX oil service sector .OSX lost 1.5 percent.

Slightly more stocks fell than rose on the New York Stock Exchange while about 50 percent of Nasdaq shares ended lower. About 6.69 billion shares changed hands on the New York Stock Exchange, the Nasdaq and NYSE MKT, above the daily average so far this year of about 6.48 billion shares.

(Editing by Nick Zieminski)

  • Most Popular
  • Most Shared

DEFENCE

REUTERS SHOWCASE

Canonisation

Canonisation

Pope declares sainthood of two Indians, four Italians.  Full Article 

Stake Sale Strike

Stake Sale Strike

Coal India trade unions call off strike in victory for Modi.  Full Article 

Markets Weekahead

Markets Weekahead

Ride the bull with a finger on the ejector button.  Full Article 

Arms Purchase

Arms Purchase

India approves $2.6 bln mounted gun purchase - official.  Full Article 

Interview with Bulgari CEO

Interview: Bulgari CEO

Bulgari CEO: we shouldn’t have left India so we’re back  Full Article 

Formula One

Formula One

Hamilton takes second F1 title in style.  Full Article 

Available For Remake

Available For Remake

Bollywood finally wants to pay the price for remakes  Full Article 

Davis Cup

Davis Cup

Vintage Federer seals first Davis Cup for Switzerland.  Full Article 

Movie Review

Movie Review

"Happy Ending" is old wine in an older bottle  Full Article 

Reuters India Mobile

Reuters India Mobile

Get the latest news on the go. Visit Reuters India on your mobile device  Full Coverage