US stocks close flat Friday after a volatile week

Friday, August 28, 2015, Vol. 39, No. 35
The Associated Press

U.S. stocks ended the day little changed Friday, letting investors breathe a little easier after a week where both the highs and lows were extreme.

The market gave investors a hard jolt the first two days of trading this week on concerns about the health of China's economy. The rebound Wednesday and Thursday was just as sharp as investors decided to scoop up beaten-up stocks.

The relatively stable Friday trading offered the owners of bruised portfolios some hope that the market was settling down.

"People are taking a little bit of a pause," said Paul Springmeyer, senior portfolio manager at the Private Client Reserve at U.S. Bank. "We're finally winding down here where maybe we're seeing more rational behavior."

The Dow Jones industrial average fell 11.76 points, or 0.1 percent, to 16,643.01 on Friday.

The Standard & Poor's 500 index rose 1.21 points, or 0.1 percent, to 1,988.87. The Nasdaq composite gained 15.62 points, or 0.3 percent, to 4,828.32.

U.S. oil prices moved sharply higher for a second day, boosting energy stocks.

Bond prices were little changed from Thursday, keeping the yield on the 10-year benchmark Treasury note at 2.18 percent.

The S&P 500 wound up the week 1.1 percent higher than the previous Friday, but stocks are still on course for their worst monthly performance in more than three years. The S&P 500 is down 5.5 percent in August, and the Dow is down 5.9 percent.

Markets have been volatile since China decided to weaken its currency earlier this month. Investors interpreted that move as an attempt to bolster a sagging economy.

Traders are also jittery about the outlook for interest rates. The Federal Reserve has signaled it could raise its key interest rate for the first time in nearly a decade later this year.

The recent market turmoil has thrown expectations for a rate increase next month into doubt, with most economists now saying it's off the table for now.

Federal Reserve Vice Chairman Stanley Fischer said Friday that before the recent turbulence in financial markets, there was a "pretty strong case" for starting to raise rates in September. But he added that the Fed is watching how events unfold.

The stock market got a boost on Friday as the price of oil continued to rebound from its lowest level in more than six years. Oil gained 6.2 percent on reports of escalating tensions in Yemen. Low oil prices had raised worries about their impact on the energy sector and the health of the global economy.

SECTOR VIEW: Five of the 10 sectors in the S&P 500 rose, led by gains for energy stocks. The industry group climbed 2.1 percent as the price of oil jumped for a second day.

ICAHN EFFECT: Freeport-McMoRan rose 31 cents, or 3 percent, to $10.50 on news that activist investor Carl Icahn took an 8.5 percent stake in the mining company. The stock had already surged Thursday when the company announced cost cuts because of declining copper prices.

STRONG QUARTER: Big Lots surged 15.7 percent after the discount retailer reported better-than-expected second-quarter earnings. It also boosted its full-year outlook. The stock rose $6.58 to $48.58.

ALL ABOUT CONSUMERS: Investors weighed mixed snapshots of how consumers are faring. The Commerce Department said consumers increased their spending 0.3 percent in July, as wages and salaries made their biggest jump in eight months. Separately, the University of Michigan's latest consumer sentiment index fell to 91.9 this month from 93.1 in July. Even so, the survey also found that Americans remain confident about the U.S. economy and their personal finances.

EUROPEAN MARKETS: Germany's DAX fell 0.2 percent, while France's CAC-40 rose 0.4 percent. Britain's FTSE 100 gained 0.9 percent.

BONDS AND CURRENCIES: U.S. government bonds were little changed from Thursday, keeping the yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury note at 2.18 percent on Thursday. The dollar rose to 121.41 yen from 121.12 in late trading Thursday. The euro fell to $1.1188 from $1.1242.

ENERGY: The price of U.S. oil rose sharply for a second day on Friday, as crude continued to rebound from its lowest price in more than six years. Oil gained on reports of escalating tensions in Yemen. U.S. crude jumped $2.66 to close at $45.22 a barrel in New York. Oil soared to its biggest one-day gain since March, 2009 on Thursday after a report showed that the U.S. economy grew more strongly than previously estimated in the second quarter.

Brent crude, a benchmark for international oils used by many U.S. refineries, rose $2.49 to close at $50.05 a barrel in London

METALS: Gold rose $11.40 to $1,134 an ounce. Silver climbed 11.8 cents to $14.54 an ounce. Copper climbed 1.3 cents to $2.25 per pound.

OTHER FUTURES: In other futures trading on the NYMEX:

— Wholesale gasoline rose 6.8 cents to close at $1.397 a gallon.

— Heating oil gained 8 cents to close at $1.576 a gallon.

— Natural gas fell 5.5 cents to close at $2.638 per 1,000 cubic feet.