From The Associated Press
NEW YORK —
Stocks edged lower in the early going on Wall Street Friday as trading quieted down at the end of a turbulent week.
The Dow Jones industrial was down 55 points, or 0.4 percent, to 15,121 after the first 90 minutes of trading. The Dow and other indexes were moving between slight gains and losses in morning trading, a sharp contrast to the sudden lurches up and down in the market earlier this week.
Trading has been volatile since late May as traders try to figure out when and by how much the Federal Reserve will dial back its aggressive support for the U.S. economy. This week was no different: The Dow slumped 243 points over Tuesday and Wednesday before jumping 180 points Thursday.
The Fed buys $85 billion in bonds every month as part of a campaign to keep interest rates extremely low. That’s intended to encourage borrowing, spending and investing. Traders worry that when the Fed slows its purchases it could cause interest rates to rise sharply, affecting many parts of the financial system and the economy. Mortgage rates have already been rising as yields on benchmark government bonds increase.
Policymakers at the Fed meet Tuesday and Wednesday to discuss the U.S. economy and the central bank’s economic stimulus policies.
Scott King, senior fiduciary investment adviser at Unified Trust in Lexington, Ky., said that investors in recent weeks have been influenced more by wondering about what the Fed might do than by the underlying fundamentals of the economy.
“You have a number of Fed governors saying the opposite to what Bernanke is saying,” King said. “And that’s made the markets more jittery.”
King said investors were disappointed Friday by a drop in consumer confidence. The Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan survey said that consumer sentiment fell in June compared with the previous month, coming in lower than economists had expected. King described the economy as “plodding along.”
“Wage growth continues to be pretty meager, and unemployment continues to be lackluster,” he said.
In other trading, the Standard & Poor’s 500 index was down six points to 1,630.
Half of the 10 industry groups in the S&P 500 index rose and half fell. The gains were led by safety-play stocks that investors favor when they want low-risk investments that pay steady dividends. Utilities and consumer staples rose the most.
The S&P 500 index hit a record high of 1,669 on May 21. The next day, markets started to move lower after Fed officials said they would consider pulling back on the stimulus program once the economy is healthy enough. The S&P has fallen 2 percent since then.
In other trading Friday, the Nasdaq composite was down 16 points at 3,430.
The price of crude oil rose $1.26, or 1.3 percent, to $97.92 a barrel. Oil is trading near its highest level of the year as traders reacted to news that the U.S. would provide weapons to rebel forces in Syria.
Gold rose $8.80, or 0.6 percent, to $1,386 an ounce.
In the market for U.S. government bonds, the yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury note fell to 2.11 percent from 2.15 percent late Thursday. The yield went as high as 2.29 percent on Tuesday, touching a 14-month high. It’s been rising since the beginning of May when it was 1.63 percent, its lowest level of the year.
Among stocks making big moves:
— Casey’s General Stores fell $2.25, or nearly 4 percent, to $61.04 after the Iowa-based convenience store operator reported earnings late Thursday that fell short of what analysts were expecting.
— Restoration Hardware jumped $9.68, or 16 percent, to $68.49 after the high-end home products chain raised its forecast for full-year earnings. The company also announced late Thursday that it plans to start two new businesses — RH Kitchen and Tableware and RH Antiquities — late next year.
— Myriad Genetics fell $1.49, or nearly 5 percent, to $30.52 a day after the Supreme Court gave the diagnostic test maker a partial victory in a battle over patents underlying its lucrative test for genes linked to high cancer risks.