U.S. stocks finished Friday’s trade pretty much where they started the session and the week as losses in consumer-discretionary and energy sectors offset a rise in staples and financials, ahead of an earnings season that is set to kick into high gear next week.
Friday’s action was mostly colored by concerns wrought by President Donald Trump, who reignited anxieties about escalating tariff spats between the U.S. and its international counterparts, while lobbing criticism at monetary policy makers here and abroad, via a series of comments over the past 24 hours that pummeled the U.S. dollar.
What are the main benchmarks doing?
The Dow Jones Industrial Average DJIA, -0.03% lost 6.38 points, or less than 0.1%, to end at 25,058. The S&P 500 index SPX, -0.09% ended the day with a slide of 2.66 points, or about 0.1%, to 2,801.83, with a drop in defensive sectors such as real estate, down 0.9% and utilities, off 0.8%, undercutting gains from financials, up 0.2% and consumer staples, climbing 0.6%.
The technology-laden Nasdaq Composite Index COMP, -0.07% COMP, -0.07% COMP, -0.07% which has an outsize exposure to large tech stocks, finished the session down 5.10 points, or less than 0.1%, at 7,820.20.
For the week, the Dow eked out a gain of 0.2%, while the S&P rose less than 0.1%. The Nasdaq notched a decline of less than 0.1%, enough to halt a string of two straight weekly gains.
What’s driving markets?
Trump signaled for a second straight day his frustration with the Federal Reserve’s policy of gradually raising interest rates, arguing that it has the potential to undermine his fiscal-stimulus measures intended to boost U.S. economic expansion in its ninth year, even as the president locks horns with trade partners across the globe.
In an interview with CNBC, Trump said he was “ready” to put tariffs on all Chinese goods imported to the U.S., which would amount to more than $500 billion. The comments were the latest in a series that pointed to worsening trade relations; on Thursday, Trump threatened “tremendous retribution” against the European Union and stood by a pledge to levy tariffs on automobile imports.
While corporate profits on the rise and economic data steady, if not strong, investors are concerned that the trade tensions could escalate into a full-scale trade war, which could hurt growth, business spending, and sentiment.
On Friday, The Wall Street Journal reported that Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch sent a letter to the White House this week warning President Trump against a continued pursuit of import tariffs.
In an excerpt of the CNBC interview released Thursday, Trump said he’s “not thrilled” that the Federal Reserve is hiking interest rates as that could undermine his administration’s fiscal stimulus efforts.
Adding to the concerns, Trump, early Friday characterized China and the European Union as currency and interest-rate manipulators in a tweet. The U.S. dollar index DXY, -0.72% a measure of the buck against a half-dozen rival currencies, almost immediately tumbled, at one point on pace for its worst daily drop of the year, finishing off 0.7% to 94.478 following the tweet.
In the latest earnings news, General Electric Co. GE, -4.44% fell by 4.4% in heavy trading after it reported earnings and revenue that beat expectations. The industrial conglomerate, in an earnings call, said it expects its GE Capital division to be break-even for the year, and that it was working with an assumption of a challenging power market beyond 2019, saying the division would require a “multiyear” fix.
The results come after a tumultuous year for the industrial conglomerate that included a leadership change, a halved dividend and its removal as the longest tenured component of the Dow. It is down 25% year to date.
Microsoft Corp. MSFT, +1.79% late Thursday posted fiscal fourth-quarter results that topped Wall Street’s expectations and issued a stronger-than-expected outlook for the first quarter. Shares climbed 1.8% and were among the most significant advancers on the day.
Next week marks the busiest week of S&P 500 corporations reporting quarterly results, with some 174 set to release earnings over the 5-session period.
What are strategists saying?
“Quite frankly, it’s just been a lot of geopolitical rhetoric,” said Sahak Manuelian, managing director of equity trading at Wedbush Securities. “I think that it’s been uneasy for investors going into the weekend, with Trump talking about the $500 billion in tariffs,” he said.
“Overall, market fundamentals look pretty good. This should be a good earnings season, but a lot of that is built into prices, so it’s hard to see significant upside from even, even as the strength prevents significant downside,” said Mike Dowdall, an investment strategist and portfolio manager at BMO Global Asset Management.
“We think this is the most important time of the month and we are getting pretty reasonable earnings year over year,” said Diane Jaffee, senior portfolio manager at TCW. She said industrials and financials have shown standout performance.
Which stocks are in focus?
Credit-card provider Capital One Financial Corp. COF, +1.95% advanced 2% following its results late Thursday, while chip companySkyworks Solutions Inc. SWKS, -5.36% lost 5.4% following its own. Medical robots pioneerIntuitive Surgical Inc. ISRG, -0.87% fell 0.9% even after its earnings topped forecasts late Thursday.
VF Corp. VFC, +4.15% reported adjusted first-quarter earnings that beat expectations, along with revenue that came in ahead of forecasts. The stock gained 4.2%.
Shares in FTD Cos. FTD, -19.47% dropped about 19.5% after the beleaguered florist said late Thursday that its chief executive, chief operating officer and chief marketing officer are departing, and it’s restructuring and reviewing strategic alternatives.
What are other markets doing?
European stocks SXXP, -0.15% finished mostly lower, while Asian stocks ended higher, on balance. Oil futures CLQ8, +1.22% advanced but suffered a third weekly decline in a row, while gold futures GCQ8, +0.65% closed higher as the U.S. dollar tumbled, marking its biggest one-day slump in about three weeks.
—Victor Reklaitis contributed to this article