U.S. stocks closed mixed in low volume trade as investors eyed oil prices and awaited data and comments from Fed policymakers


Stocks close mixed; energy weighs

U.S. stocks closed mixed Monday in low volume trade as investors eyed oil prices and awaited data and comments from key Fed policymakers due later in the week. ( Tweet This )

The Dow Jones industrial average and S&P 500 held mildly higher as the close neared, while the Nasdaq composite was a touch lower.

Earlier, stocks came off session highs, with the Nasdaq composite falling back into negative territory and the S&P 500 briefly lower, following reports of gunshots in the U.S. Capitol Visitors Center. The severity of the situation was not immediately clear.

“I certainly think it had some of an impact but nothing too crazy,” said Jeremy Klein, chief market strategist at FBN Securities.

Consumer discretionary still led S&P advancers and energy lagged. The Dow transports briefly traded 1 percent lower.

Fed Chair “Janet Yellen is going to speak tomorrow. We’re kind of in limbo until then,” said John Caruso, senior market strategist at RJO Futures.

Yellen is due to speak midday Tuesday and investors await indications on when the Fed could next raise rates. Thursday marks the end of the quarter, while the jobs report and ISM manufacturing data are expected Friday.

“I think we’re in a holding pattern. The big thing this week will be the employment number,” said Tom Cassidy, chief investment officer at Univest Wealth Management.

The major averages opened higher but struggled to hold those gains.

U.S. crude oil futures trimmed losses to settle 0.2 percent lower at $39.39 a barrel.

“I think today the key is, as (long as) oil doesn’t collapse here we should be fine,” Klein said earlier.

Consumer discretionary stocks led S&P 500 advancers in afternoon trade. Shares of Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide and Marriott International were among the top gainers in that sector following news China’s Anbang Insurance has raised its offer for Starwood to almost $14 billion, in the latest challenge to the U.S. hotel operator’s merger with Marriott, Reuters said.

Boeing and Microsoft were the greatest contributors to declines in the Dow Jones industrial average, while 3M contributed the most to gains in afternoon trade.

The Nasdaq composite struggled for gains as Netflix, Gilead Sciencesand Facebook traded higher, while Apple and the iShares Nasdaq Biotechnology ETF (IBB) traded lower.

Shares of Valeant Pharmaceuticals fell sharply after news the firm’s CEO has been summoned to testify at a U.S. congressional hearing on April 27, Reuters said. The firm is under scrutiny for significant drug price hikes. Last week, Valeant said CEO Michael Pearson would step down.

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The major U.S. averages ended five straight weeks of gains on Thursday and were closed Friday for Good Friday.

In economic news, consumer spending edged up 0.1 percent in February, after January’s figure was revised lower to show a 0.1 percent gain versus the previously reported 0.5 percent rise. Personal income rose 0.2 percent.

Excluding food and energy, prices gained 0.1 percent after advancing 0.3 percent in January. In the 12 months through February, the so-called core PCE price index increased 1.7 percent after a similar increase in January, Reuters said.

The U.S. Department of Commerce also said the advance February goods trade deficit was $62.86 billion.

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The trade gap, wider than most expectations, and the downward revision in January consumption prompted several cuts to first-quarter GDP estimates.

Barclays lowered its first-quarter GDP tracking estimate to 0.9 percent, while Goldman Sachs cut its estimate to 1.7 percent.

The U.S. dollar index turned lower to trade about 0.3 percent lower, with the euro above $1.12 and the yen at 113.28 yen against the greenback as of 2:39 p.m. ET.

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“People are looking at this data, have now rolled back expectations on GDP,” said Jason Leinwand, managing director at Riverside Risk Advisors.

However, he said the pullback in the dollar is likely temporary. “I think the Fed speak is more important than … one data point,” he said.

Treasury yields held lower, with the 2-year yield at 0.87 percent and the10-year yield at 1.88 percent.

The Treasury Department auctioned $26 billion in two-year notes at a high yield of 0.877 percent. The bid-to-cover ratio, an indicator of demand, was 2.58.

Early on Monday ET, San Francisco Fed President John Williams told CNBC the U.S. economy was doing “quite well” and that global developments are preventing the United States from returning to normalized interest rates.

Fed officials have recently commented on the possibility of a rate hike as soon as next month, after central bank policymakers lowered projections for the number of hikes this year to two.

In other economic news, the National Association of Realtors said its pending home sales index rose 3.5 percent to 109.1 last month, the highest level in seven months. January’s reading was revised to show a 3.0 percent decline, which was deeper than initially reported, Reuters said.

DJIA Dow Jones Industrial Average 17535.39 19.66 0.11%
S&P 500 S&P 500 Index 2037.05 1.11 0.05%
NASDAQ Nasdaq Composite Index 4766.79 -6.72 -0.14%

While U.S. markets were closed for Good Friday, the Commerce Department’s third GDP estimate for the fourth quarter showed anannual growth rate of 1.4 percent instead of the previously reported 1.0 percent pace.

However, corporate profits declined for a second-straight quarter and fell 5.1 percent for all of 2015, their largest drop since 2008, Reuters said. Profits fell 0.6 percent in 2014.

European markets are closed for Easter Monday. Hong Kong markets also remain closed until Tuesday.

Asian markets were mixed Monday, with the Nikkei 225 higher and the Shanghai composite slightly lower.

Over the weekend, China’s National Bureau of Statistics said industrial profits for the country ended a seven-month decline with a 4.8 percent year-over-year increase in January and February combined, according to Reuters.

Separately, the private China Beige Book survey released Sunday said profits in the first quarter improved from the lows of the previous quarter, but hiring growth slowed. The data also showed just 33 percent of firms reported an increase in capital expenditure, the smallest proportion in the survey’s five-year history.

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In afternoon trade, the Dow Jones industrial average rose 34 points, or 0.19 percent, at 17,549, with General Electric the top advancer andMicrosoft leading decliners.

The S&P 500 gained 4 points, or 0.17 percent, to 2,039, with consumer discretionary leading six sectors higher and energy the greatest laggard.

The Nasdaq composite traded less than one point higher near 4,773.

The CBOE Volatility Index (VIX), widely considered the best gauge of fear in the market, traded near 15.

About three stocks advanced for every two decliners on the New York Stock Exchange, with an exchange volume of 379 million and a composite volume of 1.8 billion.

Gold futures for April delivery settled down $1.50 at $1,220.10 an ounce

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