U.S. Stocks Finish Choppy Trading Day Slightly Higher

After ending Thursday’s session mostly lower, stocks showed a lack of direction throughout the trading day on Friday. The major averages spent the day bouncing back and forth across the unchanged line.

The major averages eventually ended the session slightly higher. The Dow crept up 22.34 points or 0.1 percent to 33,808.96, the Nasdaq edged up 12.90 points or 0.1 percent to 12,072.46 and the S&P 500 inched up 3.73 points or 0.1 percent to 4,133.52.

Despite the uptick on the day, the major averages moved modestly lower for the week. While the S&P 500 edged down by 0.1 percent, the Dow slipped by 0.2 percent and the Nasdaq dipped by 0.4 percent.

The choppy trading on Wall Street came as traders seemed reluctant to make significant moves as they look for additional clarity about the outlook for the markets following the volatility seen in recent session.

Traders may also have been looking ahead to several key economic reports due be released next week, including the Commerce Department’s report on personal income and spending.

The report includes a reading on inflation said to be preferred by the Federal Reserve and could impact the outlook for interest rates ahead of the next Fed meeting the following week.

Earnings news is also likely to remain in focus next week, with Coca-Cola (KO), 3M (MMM), General Electric (GE), McDonald’s (MCD), Alphabet (GOOGL), Amazon (AMZN), Intel (INTC), and Exxon Mobil (XOM) among a slew of big-name companies due to report their quarterly results.

Amid a relatively quiet day on the economic front, S&P Global released data indicating a faster rise in business activity at U.S.-based firms on the month of April.

The headline S&P Global Flash U.S. PMI Composite Output Index climbed to 53.5 in April from 52.3 in March, signaling the quickest upturn in business activity since May 2022. Economists had expected the index to inch up to 52.8.

The report also said the Flash U.S. Services Business Activity also rose to a twelve-month high of 53.7 in April from 52.6 in March, while the Flash U.S. Manufacturing PMI crept up to 50.4 from 49.2, signaling the first improvement in operating conditions at goods producers in six months.

The uptick by the Dow partly reflected a notable advance by shares of Procter & Gamble (PG), with the consumer products giant surging by 3.5 percent.

Procter & Gamble jumped after reporting better than expected fiscal third quarter results and raising its full-year sales guidance on higher prices.

Sector News

Pharmaceutical stocks showed a strong move to the upside on the day, driving the NYSE Arca Pharmaceutical Index up by 1.4 percent to a record closing high.

Notable strength was also visible among retail stocks, as reflected by the 1.3 percent gain posted by the Dow Jones U.S. Retail Index.

On the other hand, steel stocks moved sharply lower over the course of the session, dragging the NYSE Arca Steel Index down by 2.4 percent.

Oil service stocks also saw considerable weakness despite an increase in by the price of crude oil, resulting in a 1.8 percent slump the Philadelphia Oil Service Index.

Banking stocks also showed a notable move to the downside on the day, with the KBW Bank Index falling by 1.5 percent.

Other Markets

In overseas trading, stock markets across the Asia-Pacific region moved mostly lower during trading on Friday. Japan’s Nikkei 225 Index slipped by 0.3 percent, while China’s Shanghai Composite Index plunged by 2.0 percent.

Meanwhile, the major European markets moved to the upside on the day. While the U.K.’s FTSE 100 Index edged up by 0.2 percent, the French CAC 40 Index and the German DAX Index both rose by 0.5 percent.

In the bond market, treasuries came under pressure over the course of the session after seeing early strength. Subsequently, the yield on the benchmark ten-year note, which moves opposite of its price, rose by 2.5 basis points to 3.570 percent.

Looking Ahead

The latest earnings news and economic data may impact the markets next week, although trading activity may remain somewhat subdued ahead of the Fed decision in early May.

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