US stocks on Friday fluctuated between small gains and losses with the major indexes in line for a decline this week as investors waited for a speech by the Federal Reserve Chairwoman Janet Yellen on the monetary policy.
The speech is highly likely to make for a volatile close to the markets this week.
“Yellen will be the big news of the day, certainly, so I don’t expect a lot of movement before that,” Peter Jankovskis, co-chief investment officer at OakBrook Investments LLC in Lisle, Illinois, told Reuters.
“We’ll see how people interpret what she has to say.”
Ahead of the opening bell, traders assessed a report on the final revision to America’s fourth quarter GDP growth in 2014 which remained at 2.2% with the report also highlighting sluggish growth in quarterly corporate profits.
Investors believe that the sluggishness of the quarterly profits has been weighing on market sentiment lately.
The Benchmark S&P 500 Index was mainly flat at 2056.04 with seven of its ten key sectors trading slightly higher.
Healthcare and utilities shares were up buoyed by a 1.6% growth in biotech after four straight sessions of losses. The gains were however offset by a slump in energy shares after oil resumed its decline after Thursday’s gains on the escalating Middle East Conflict.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average slipped 3 points or 0.02% 17,674.86 at 10.50 A.m. in New York. The technology heavy Nasdaq Composite was buoyed by the gain in biotechnology shares to gain 21 points or 0.4% and partially rebound from Thursday’s selloff.
Stocks are now firmly poised for a loss this week weighed down by disappointing US economic data, worries about sluggish growth in first quarter corporate profits on a robust dollar and worries about the overvaluation of certain sectors of the market like biotechnology stocks.
“Durable goods numbers looked a little worse than expected, and forecasters are having a bit of a problem figuring out how much impact the dollar will have on earnings,” Jim Cahn, chief investment officer of Wealth Enhancement Advisory Services, which oversees about $4.7 billion, told the Wall Street Journal.
“Especially given the fact that stocks aren’t at a bubble but they’re a little stretched right now, the market has been selling off,” Mr. Cahn added.
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