Stocks end the day flat, wrapping up a strong week

Stocks end the day flat, wrapping up a strong week
Trader Jeffrey Vazquez works on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange on Feb. 26. (Richard Drew / Associated Press)

Stocks finished a strong week on a flat note as lower oil prices and utility stocks offset encouraging economic news.

Still, the market ended Friday with a second straight weekly gain.


The Dow Jones industrial average closed down 57.32 points, or 0.3%, to 16,639.97. The Standard & Poor's 500 index edged down 3.65 points, or 0.2%, to 1,948.05 and the Nasdaq composite added 8.27 points, or 0.2%, to 4,590.47.

All three indexes finished the week up by 1.5% or more. Oil, despite Friday's decline, was up 3.6% for the week.

On Friday the market was buoyed early by a strong rally in overseas stocks triggered by word from China that it would not devalue its currency to make its imports more competitive.

Also, the Commerce Department said U.S. gross domestic product, the broadest measure of economic health, grew at an annual rate of 1% in the fourth quarter, an improvement from the first estimate of 0.7%. Economists were expecting a reading of 0.4% growth.

"We are finally seeing some stabilization in the economic data — durable goods numbers, retail sales and this second reading on GDP — that will hopefully end this debate on whether the U.S. economy is heading toward recession," said Quincy Krosby, a market strategist with Prudential Financial.

But the stronger economic news kicked interest rates up sharply.

Voya market strategists Douglas Cote and Karyn Cavanaugh, in a note to investors, said the GDP data could boost the likelihood of an interest rate increase at the Federal Reserve's meeting in March.

This sentiment and the rising rates delivered a hard hit to relatively safe investments such as government bonds and stocks that are attractive for their dividends.

The Dow Jones utility index, a basket of 15 utility companies, fell nearly 3%. Utility stocks tend to do better at times of low interest rates or economic uncertainty because their business is relatively stable and they pay a high dividend.

Government bond prices fell, pushing the yield on the 10-year Treasury note up to 1.76% from 1.72% the day before. Gold prices fell $18.40, closing at $1,220.40 an ounce.

Oil was unable to hold gains from early in the day and closed down 29 cents, or 1%, at $32.78 a barrel.

Heating oil fell 1.8 cents to $1.067 a gallon. Wholesale gasoline futures fell 1.7 cents to $1.295 a gallon, and natural gas rose 0.6 cents to $1.791 per 1,000 cubic feet.

Silver fell 49 cents to $14.71 an ounce. High-grade copper rose 5 cents to $2.125 a pound.