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U.S. Stocks on Track to Snap Two-Week Losing Streak

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05/26/2017 | 08:45pm CET
By Riva Gold and Corrie Driebusch 

The S&P 500 was on track to snap a two-week losing streak, though major indexes were little changed Friday.

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.

The S&P 500 hit its 19th record of the year Thursday and is on pace to close the week up 1.4%, its biggest weekly gain since the end of April.

"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 points to healthy if not robust economic growth, and that, along with solid earnings, makes him optimistic about where stocks are headed.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average edged up 2 points, or less than 0.1%, to 21085 on Friday. The S&P 500 and the Nasdaq Composite rose less than 0.1%.

An unlikely combination has led gains this week: shares of utilities companies and technology firms. Both sectors in the S&P 500 have gained more than 2% during the week.

Tech shares are up 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, and its stock traded within a few dollars of $1,000 on Friday. 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.

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

Separately, energy shares were the biggest losers over the past week, as the price of oil dropped. U.S.-traded crude oil recently climbed 1.5% to $49.66 a barrel, but is still on track to end the week down more than 2%.

Oil prices declined earlier this 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 are on pace to close 2.2% 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 fresh records.

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

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