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VOL. 41 | NO. 33 | Friday, August 18, 2017

US stock indexes inch higher after back-to-back down weeks

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NEW YORK (AP) — U.S. stocks inched higher Monday, as the Standard & Poor's 500 index steadied following back-to-back losses the last two weeks.

This week may be a calmer one for the stock market, after an uncharacteristically bumpy stretch shook what had been an incredibly smooth ride higher for stocks this year. Few market-moving events are on the calendar this week, and the highlight will likely arrive when central bankers from around the world gather in Wyoming as the weekend approaches.

The S&P 500 rose 2.82 points, or 0.1 percent, to 2,428.37 after it and other indexes flipped between small gains and losses throughout the day. The Dow Jones industrial average gained 29.24, or 0.1 percent, to 21,703.75, and the Nasdaq composite slipped 3.40 points, or 0.1 percent, to 6,213.13.

The modest moves were a return to form for the market. It's had just four days this year where the S&P 500 has dropped by more than 1 percent, which is well below the typical number in recent decades. But half those instances occurred in the last two weeks, stoked by worries about discord in Washington and the potential for war abroad.

"One of the reasons the market has held in and performed well recently — although it's wobbled a bit in the last two weeks — has been earnings," said Ernie Cecilia, chief investment officer at Bryn Mawr Trust. "Without the earnings that we saw, it would have been a much more difficult period of time for the market."

Companies are mostly done reporting their results for the spring quarter, and their growth in profits was stronger than analysts expected. Not only that, businesses also reported higher revenues. That's encouraging given the struggles many companies have had in recent years to grow amid the still-sluggish global economy.

Cecilia said he sees few potential drivers that could move markets much in either direction in the coming weeks, and he expects the market to "trade in some sort of sideways fashion."

One potential highlight could be the upcoming gathering in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, for central bankers, economists and policy makers. Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen and European Central Bank head Mario Draghi are both expected to speak at the symposium, which begins Thursday and is hosted by the Fed's regional bank in Kansas City.

Tremendous stimulus from central banks has been one of the main reasons for the stock market's surge since the Great Recession. But the Federal Reserve is now slowly raising interest rates and preparing to pare back the vast trove of bonds that it bought following the 2008 financial crisis. Investors are wondering when the European Central Bank may follow suit.

Jackson Hole has been the site of market-moving news in the past, including in 2010 when former Fed Chair Ben Bernanke signaled the central bank may embark on another round of bond buying to shore up the economy.

Another wild card for markets may lie in Asia, where U.S. and South Korean forces on Monday started their annual joint military exercises. Tensions are higher than usual with North Korea, and Pyongyang in the past has responded to the drills with weapons tests and a string of belligerent rhetoric.

In Asia, South Korea's Kospi index dipped 0.1 percent, Japan's Nikkei 225 index fell 0.4 percent and the Hang Seng in Hong Kong rose 0.4 percent.

In Europe, France's CAC 40 fell 0.5 percent, Germany's DAX lost 0.8 percent and the FTSE 100 in London slipped 0.1 percent.

In the U.S., mining companies helped to lead the market after prices for metals and other commodities rose. Freeport-McMoRan had the biggest gain in the S&P 500, up 58 cents, or 4.1 percent, to $14.73. Not far behind was Newmont Mining, which rose 78 cents, or 2.2 percent, to $36.61.

Gold rose $5.10 to settle at $1,296.70 per ounce, silver rose 2 cents to $17.02 per ounce and copper gained 4 cents to $2.98 per pound.

Dividend-paying stocks were also strong, with real-estate investment trusts the best-performing sector of the 11 that make up the S&P 500. Investors snapped up dividend-paying stocks as bond yields fell on Monday.

The yield on the 10-year Treasury note dipped to 2.17 percent from 2.20 percent late Friday. The two-year yield slipped to 1.30 percent from 1.31 percent, and the 30-year yield fell to 2.77 percent from 2.78 percent.

On the losing side of the U.S. stock market, again, were stocks of athletic-gear companies. Shares had tumbled across the industry on Friday after Foot Locker and Hibbett Sports said revenue fell last quarter. Foot Locker fell $2.56, or 7.4 percent, to $31.82 for Monday's biggest loss in the S&P 500. It plunged 27.9 percent on Friday.

The dollar dipped to 108.85 Japanese yen from 109.26 yen late Friday. The euro rose to $1.1813 from $1.1760, and the British pound rose to $1.2901 from $1.2876.

Benchmark U.S. crude fell $1.14 to settle at $47.37 per barrel. Brent crude, the international standard, lost $1.06 to $51.66 a barrel.

Natural gas rose 7 cents $2.96 per 1,000 cubic feet, heating oil fell 5 cents to $1.57 per gallon and wholesale gasoline lost 4 cents to $1.58 per gallon.

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