A late-session selloff kept stocks narrowly mixed Thursday as cautious investors took what little profits they could from a disappointing week marked by an interest rate increase and inflation concerns. All three major indexes saw their third straight week of losses.
Economic data pointing to modest growth gave investors enough courage to find bargains after the week’s selloff. With orders for durable goods — those made to last more than three years — rising by just 0.3 percent in February, investors felt that demand was sluggish enough to forestall rising prices.
But the last hour of trading ahead of the Good Friday holiday saw a pullback in an already weak relief rally, prompted in part by rising crude oil prices. Analysts said many investors remain skeptical that the Federal Reserve’s interest rate increases will stem inflation without damaging the economy.
“The market was in a severely oversold condition because of all these inflation fears,” said Peter Cardillo, chief strategist and senior vice president at S.W. Bach & Co. “But I still think there’s a bumpy road ahead for a while. The market really needs assurances that the Fed will be able to keep ahead of inflation.”
The Dow Jones industrial average fell 13.15, or 0.13 percent, to 10,442.87.
Broader stock indicators were narrowly mixed. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index was down 1.11, or 0.09 percent, at 1,171.42, while the Nasdaq composite index climbed 0.84, or 0.04 percent, to 1,991.06 as investors returned to the heavily oversold technology sector.
The stock market tumbled to its third straight week of losses after the Federal Reserve on Tuesday confirmed that inflationary pressures were building within the economy. Many on Wall Street now believe that higher interest rate hikes, beyond the customary quarter percentage point increases since the summer, could be coming as early as May.
For the week, the Dow lost 1.76 percent, the S&P 500 fell 0.83 percent and the Nasdaq slid 1.53 percent. The markets are closed Friday for the Good Friday holiday.
After oil prices dropped 4 percent earlier in the week, crude oil staged a recovery Thursday. A barrel of light crude settled at $54.84, up $1.03, on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Bonds were narrowly higher, with the yield on the 10-year Treasury note falling to 4.59 percent, down from 4.6 percent on Wednesday. The dollar rose against world currencies, while gold prices edged lower.
Advancing issues outnumbered decliners by nearly 9 to 5 on the New York Stock Exchange, where volume came to 1.36 billion shares, compared with 1.81 billion traded on Wednesday.
The Russell 2000 index of smaller companies was up 3.21, or 0.5 percent, at 615.27.
Overseas, Japan’s Nikkei stock average rose 0.06 percent. In Europe, Britain’s FTSE 100 closed up 0.25 percent, France’s CAC-40 climbed 1.14 percent for the session, and Germany’s DAX index gained 0.61 percent.
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