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U.S. Stocks Mostly Flat in Quiet Session

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05/26/2017 | 11:17pm CEST
By Riva Gold and Corrie Driebusch 

The S&P 500 snapped a two-week losing streak as the index climbed to another record Friday.

Stocks were little changed overall in a quiet session Friday ahead of the long holiday weekend. It was the slowest trading day of the year, as measured by number of shares changing hands on major U.S. exchanges.

The S&P 500 edged higher to its 20th record of the year and notched a weekly gain of 1.4%, its biggest since the end of April. The Nasdaq Composite also closed at a record.

Stocks have risen on stronger-than-expected first-quarter earnings, continued signs of a steady economy and expectations that the Federal Reserve will only raise rates gradually.

"We've had a strong start to the year, but the question is: Is this the calm before the storm?" said Allen Bond, portfolio manager of the Jensen Quality Growth Fund, which manages just over $5 billion.

While the market is looking expensive and there may be better opportunities overseas, low volatility and investor confidence suggest there might be a bit further for the market to climb, some analysts and fund managers said.

Mr. Bond said he believes recent data indicates healthy if not robust economic growth. That, along with solid earnings, makes him optimistic about where stocks are headed.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average edged down 2.67 points, or less than 0.1%, to 21080.28 on Friday. The S&P 500 added 0.75 points, or less than 0.1%, to 2415.82 and the Nasdaq Composite rose 4.94 points, or less than 0.1%, to 6210.19.

Companies that operate rail tracks or trains outperformed the broader market Friday. Kansas City Southern rose 2.88, or 3.1%, to 95.95, while Norfolk Southern added 2.56, or 2.1%, to 122.33.

Shares of Signet Jewelers fell for a second day in a row after missing earnings expectations. Its stock declined 99 cents, or 2%, to 49.31, putting its weekly loss at 16%.

The two sectors that led gains in the S&P 500 during the week were utilities and technology, with both adding more than 2%.

Utilities companies, often referred to as bond proxies because of their steady dividend payments, have climbed as inflation expectations have moderated.

Tech shares have risen 20% so far this year, as investors have scooped up companies that have outperformed the broader market in the years since the financial crisis.

Amazon.com, though classified in the S&P 500 as a consumer company, has risen alongside big tech companies. Its stock traded within a few dollars of $1,000 on Friday, closing up $2.40, or 0.2%, at $995.78.

Its price has soared from around $68 apiece a decade ago, a sign not only of the company's growth, but also how fewer companies are choosing to "split" their stocks to boost the number of shares and lower prices.

Separately, energy shares were the biggest decliners over the past week, as the price of oil dropped. U.S.-traded crude oil for July delivery climbed 1.8% to $49.80 a barrel Friday, but ended the week down more than 1.7%.

Oil prices declined earlier in the week on disappointment that the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries didn't take more aggressive measures to cut production at a meeting in Vienna.

Although OPEC members agreed to extend production cuts through March 2018, "the market had been speculating in deeper cuts and a longer commitment," said Martin Enlund, analyst at Nordea.

Energy stocks in the S&P 500 closed 2.1% lower on the week.

The Stoxx Europe 600 declined 0.2% Friday, ending the week down less than 0.1%.

In Asia, Japan's Nikkei rose 0.5% in the past week, and South Korea's Kospi Composite Index and India's Sensex rose to records.

Write to Riva Gold at [email protected] and Corrie Driebusch at [email protected]

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