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S&P 500 set for another down week as January's rally fizzles

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U.S. stock indexes stemmed an early slide Friday, finishing mostly higher and nudging the benchmark S&P 500 index to its second weekly gain in a row.

Gains in technology and consumer goods companies outweighed losses in financial stocks and retailers as investors continued to size up the latest batch of quarterly corporate snapshots.

Prior to a late-afternoon flurry of buying, the market had been on pace to finish lower as investors hit pause following a tumultuous two months where the index followed up its worst December since 1931 with its best January in three decades.

“Earnings are coming in good — we’re seeing over 15 percent growth — but there are some concerns about the next quarter that growth is going to be pretty close to zero,” said Karyn Cavanaugh, senior markets strategist at Voya Investment Management.

The S&P 500 rose 1.83 points, or 0.1 percent, to 2,707.88. The Dow Jones Industrial Average lost 63.20 points, or 0.3 percent, to 25,106.33.

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The Nasdaq composite added 9.85 points, or 0.1 percent, to 7,298.20. The Russell 2000 index of smaller companies picked up 0.77 points, or 0.1 percent, to 1,506.39. Major stock indexes in Europe finished lower.

Traders have been worried about predicted slowdowns in economies around the world, with trade tensions between the United States and China adding to the strain. Warnings about slower growth from Europe and the United Kingdom earlier this week hit hard, helping to derail a five-day winning streak for the S&P 500.

It hasn’t been all bad news, however. Companies have been reporting better-than-expected earnings for the last three months of 2018, and the Federal Reserve has indicated it will take a more patient approach to raising interest rates. Still, concerns are building about whether profits can keep growing this year, especially after companies’ strong gains in 2018 following a sweeping corporate tax cut.

“The markets are looking forward to an earning season that might be a little bit challenging for the first quarter, because they’re going to be having to jump over a higher bar,” Cavanaugh said.

Across the S&P 500, analysts are forecasting earnings per share to drop 1.8 percent in the first quarter from a year earlier. They were calling for growth just a few weeks ago, and if the updated forecasts prove true, it will be the first decline in nearly three years. Looking beyond the first quarter, earnings growth by S&P 500 companies is expected to grow 5 percent for all of 2019.

Technology stocks drove much of the market’s late-day recovery Friday, with Motorola Solutions leading the pack. The stock vaulted 14.1 percent.

Financial stocks took some of the heaviest losses and were hurt by a drop in interest rates, which can limit the profits they make from lending money. Morgan Stanley slid 1.6 percent.

Treasury yields fell as investors continued to seek out safer areas of the market given all the economic and profit concerns. Treasury yields fall when prices for the bonds rise.

The yield on the 10-year Treasury note dropped to 2.63 percent from 2.65 percent late Thursday. It had been above 3 percent as recently as December.

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Traders continued to weigh a mixed batch of company earnings reports Friday.

Mattel surged to one of the biggest gains in the S&P 500 after reporting a bigger-than-expected profit for its latest quarter. Its stock leaped 23.2 percent.

Rival Hasbro, though, fell after its own earnings report fell short of Wall Street’s expectations. Its stock dropped 1 percent.

Chipmaker Qorvo declined 3 percent despite reporting stronger earnings for its latest quarter than Wall Street expected. Investors focused instead on its revenue forecast for the current quarter, which was below analysts’ expectations. The company said cited weakness across the smartphone market.

Goodyear Tire & Rubber plunged 9.1 percent, posting the biggest loss in the S&P 500 index, after reporting weaker-than-expected profit for the latest quarter. The company cited some weakness in China, which has been a big source of concern for investors recently.

The world’s second-largest economy is in the midst of a sharp economic slowdown, and it’s a huge market for many big U.S. companies.

Amazon.com dropped 1.6 percent after its CEO, Jeff Bezos, said he was the target of blackmail by the publisher of the National Enquirer, which he said threatened to publish revealing personal photos of him. Bezos, who is also the owner of the Washington Post, has been locked in an increasingly tense standoff with President Donald Trump, and the Enquirer has been a strong backer of Trump in the past. The Enquirer’s publisher said Friday that it acted lawfully while reporting the story and will look into the claims.

Amazon is one of the biggest stocks in the S&P 500, so its movements have a larger effect on index funds than other stocks.

Markets around the world have been lurching up and down in recent months as investors worry about fallout from the U.S.-China trade dispute. President Donald Trump said Thursday that he doesn’t plan to meet Chinese leader Xi Jinping before their cease-fire on tariffs expires in early March.

Unless American and Chinese negotiators come to a new agreement, the U.S. is expected to raise import taxes from 10 percent to 25 percent for $200 billion in Chinese goods. The trade dispute between the world’s two largest economies, which has cooled in recent months, has weighed on the outlook of businesses and the global economy.

Trump’s announcement weighed on markets around the world, and indexes in Europe and Asia mostly fell.

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AP Business Writer Annabelle Liang contributed from Singapore

The Western Journal has not reviewed this Associated Press story prior to publication. Therefore, it may contain editorial bias or may in some other way not meet our normal editorial standards. It is provided to our readers as a service from The Western Journal.

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