– Wall Street traded with mixed signs on Friday as investors digested mixed data and wound down what has been a strong quarter for stocks.
At 11:47AM ET (15:47GMT), the Dow Jones lost 24 points, or 0.12%, the S&P 500 inched up 1 point, or 0.03%, while the Nasdaq Composite traded up 7 points, or 0.12%.
Both the Dow and S&P were on track for gains so far in 2017 of around 5%, marking their best quarter since 2013.
On the economic front, personal spending disappointed with growth of just 0.1%, its smallest gain in six months, while personal income came out in line with a 0.4% increase.
Core personal consumption expenditures (PCE), the Fed’s preferred metric for inflation, ticked up to 1.8% in February, moving close to the central bank’s 2% target.
Manufacturing activity in the Chicago Fed gave a strong showing as it unexpectedly increased to 57.7, beating expectations for a 0.5 point decline to 56.9.
On the downside, the University of Michigan’s consumer sentiment index for March was unexpectedly revised lower to 96.9 from the prior reading of 97.6.
Among appearances from policymakers, New York Fed president William Dudley indicated that the central bank could begin shrinking its $4.5 trillion balance sheet as soon as this year.
“It wouldn’t surprise me if some time later this year or some time in 2018, should the economy perform in line with our expectations, that we will start to gradually let the securities mature rather than reinvesting them,” Dudley, considered to be most akin to views from Fed chair Janet Yellen, explained Friday in an interview with Bloomberg.
Minneapolis Fed president Neel Kashkari, the lone dissenter in the last policy decision due to his preference to keep rates unchanged, pointed out that Friday’s data on core PCE inflation remained below target and there was no reason to hurry policy tightening.
St. Louis Fed chief James Bullard, who defines himself as the most dovish policymaker, said that the current environment allowed the central bank to wait and see how the economy progressed but added that he would back shrinking the balance sheet now.
In company news, FMC lead advancers on the S&P 500 with gains of nearly 14% as DuPont (NYSE:DD) said it would buy nearly all of the firm’s health and nutrition business while also selling it a crop protection business in a move to designed to secure the European Union’s approval of the blue chip’s merger with Dow Chemical (NYSE:DOW).
Shares in BlackBerry also jumped 12% as the Canadian software and services company produced quarterly earnings that beat consensus.
Meanwhile, U.S. oil slipped lower but remained above the $50 a barrel threshold on Friday, as investors locked in profits from the commodity’s recent climb to a three-week high.
Still, black gold has had a downbeat quarter with prices on track for losses of 7% since the beginning of the year as concerns about the OPEC production cut and a persistent global oversupply have put a damper on bullish sentiment.
For Friday’s session, market players looked ahead to weekly data from Baker Hughes on U.S. drilling activity that has been on the rise to take advantage of reduced supply from other major oil producers.
Data from the oilfield services provider last week revealed that the number of active U.S. rigs drilling for oil rose by 21 in the prior week, the tenth weekly increase in a row. That brought the total count to 652, the most since September 2015.
U.S. crude futures slipped 0.08% to $50.31 by 11:49AM ET (11:49GMT), while Brent oilinched up 0.06% to $53.16.