March 31, 2017 (AP)(STL.News) U.S. stock indexes drifted mostly higher in late-afternoon trading Friday as the market closed out a solid quarter with the Nasdaq composite headed for another record high. Investors had their eye on several corporate deals and new economic data on consumer spending and inflation. Financial stocks were down the most, while utilities led the gainers.
KEEPING SCORE: The Dow Jones industrial average slid 60 points, or 0.3 percent, to 20,667 as of 2:18 p.m. Eastern Time. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index fell 3 points, or 2 percent, to 2,364. The Nasdaq composite index lost 2 points to 5,911. The index hit an all-time high on Thursday. The Russell 2000 index of smaller-company stocks picked up 5 points, or 0.4 percent, to 1,387. Three stocks rose for every two that fell on the New York Stock Exchange.
THE QUOTE: Trading has been mostly quiet, suggesting portfolio managers looking to bolster their end-of-quarter performance made their moves earlier in the week, said Quincy Krosby, market strategist at Prudential Financial.
“The market has performed very well,” Krosby said. “The market is moving ahead into the second quarter with valuations that are high, but the expectations are that the first-quarter earnings season will confirm the valuations.”
QUARTER’S END: As the market closes in on the final trading hours of the first quarter, the S&P 500 is on track for its best quarter since the end of 2015, while the Nasdaq is on course for its best quarterly showing since the end of 2013. The Dow isn’t doing as well as it did in the final quarter of 2016. And the Russell 2000 is on pace for its fourth quarterly gain in a row.
U.S. ECONOMY: The Commerce Department said consumer spending kept rising in February, though gains in the last two months have been slow. Meanwhile, an inflation gauge closely watched by the Federal Reserve increased 2.1 percent in February compared to a year ago, a five-year high.
DASHED EXPECTATIONS: NantHealth slumped 5.7 percent after the health care information technology company reported disappointing fourth-quarter revenue. The stock shed 29 cents to $4.80.
TAKE THE WHEEL: Shares in two big auto dealership companies were in a skid. AutoNation fell $1.33, or 3.1 percent, to $42.16, the biggest decliner in the S&P 500. CarMax slid 79 cents, or 1.3 percent, to $59.27.
STRONG QUARTER: DXP Enterprises jumped 15.9 percent after the industrial products company reported a profit and better-than-expected sales in the fourth quarter. The stock added $5.22 to $37.96.
DIALED IN: BlackBerry surged 12.2 percent after the company delivered a surprise fourth-quarter profit. Its shares picked up $1.13 to $10.40.
ACQUISITION AGREEMENT: TRC vaulted 45.6 percent after the engineering and consulting services company agreed to be bought by a unit of the investment firm New Mountain Capital for $17.55 a share, or $365.5 million. The stock climbed $5.45 to $17.40.
DOUBLE DEAL: FMC has agreed to buy part of DuPont’s crop protection business, while DuPont buys FMC’s health and nutrition unit. DuPont also gets $1.6 billion, mostly in cash. Antitrust regulators in Europe wanted DuPont to make the sale as part of its combination with competitor Dow Chemical. Shares in FMC jumped $8.42, or 13.7 percent, to $69.92. DuPont shares fell 89 cents, or 1.1 percent, to $80.75.
MARKETS OVERSEAS: In Europe, Germany’s DAX rose 0.5 percent, while France’s CAC 40 gained 0.7 percent. The FTSE 100 index of leading British shares fell 0.6 percent. In Asia, Tokyo’s Nikkei 225 and Hong Kong’s Hang Seng each fell 0.8 percent. Sydney’s S&P-ASX 200 declined 0.5 percent. Seoul’s Kospi fell 0.2 percent. India’s Sensex gave up 0.2 percent, while Taiwan and New Zealand rose.
TREASURY YIELDS: Bond prices edged higher. The 10-year Treasury yield fell to 2.40 percent from 2.42 percent late Thursday.
OIL & GAS: Recovering from an early slide, benchmark U.S. crude rose 25 cents to close at $50.60 per barrel in New York. Brent crude, used to price international oils, slipped 13 cents to close at $52.83 a barrel in London. Natural gas held steady at $3.19 per 1,000 cubic feet. Wholesale gasoline rose 2 cents to $1.70 per gallon and heating oil gained 2 cents to $1.57 per gallon.
METALS: The price of gold rose $3.20 to settle at $1,251.20 an ounce. Silver added 5 cents to $18.26 per ounce. Copper slipped 2 cents to $2.65 per pound.
CURRENCIES: The euro weakened to $1.0684 from $1.0691 on Thursday. The dollar fell to 111.29 yen from 111.60 yen.
ALEX VEIGA, AP Business Writer