The Dow Jones Industrial Average held lower on Friday, even as the rest of the market tempered losses or turned higher, and remained on track to close out March with its first monthly loss since before the U.S. presidential election.
The Dow slid 0.17% or 36 points. The S&P 500 was flat, and the Nasdaq added 0.05%.
The Dow has had a weaker month in March, a result of financials coming back to earth in recent weeks after an extended rally following Donald Trump's surprise election win in November. The blue-chip index is set for a 0.4% decline for March. The Nasdaq will likely see the best return for the month, barring any massive moves on Friday, with gains of 1.5%. The S&P 500 is set to rise just 0.2% for March.
For the first quarter, the Nasdaq will again log the best gains of the three major benchmark indexes with a likely increase of 10% over the first three months of the year. The S&P 500 will likely close up nearly 6% for the first quarter, while the Dow should rise almost 5%. The Dow's gain will be its sixth quarterly increase in a row, its longest stretch since the end of 2006.
Personal incomes in the U.S. rose 0.4% in February, in line with estimates but slightly slower than growth of 0.5% in January. Consumer spending increased 0.1%, half the expected increase. The U.S. savings rate increased to 5.6% from 5.4%.
Manufacturing activity in Chicago unexpectedly improved in March, according to the latest Chicago PMI. The measure rose to 57.7 in March from 57.4 in February, beating economists' estimates of a decline to 56.9. Production was at its highest since January 2016. Chicago PMI in the first quarter was its best since the fourth quarter of 2014.
Consumer sentiment in the U.S. edged up in the final reading for March, though not at the pace economists anticipated. Sentiment increased to a reading of 96.9 from an earlier estimate of 96.3, according to the University of Michigan consumer sentiment index. Economists expected the measure to tick up to 97.2.
Crude oil gave back some of its recent gains on Friday after settling at its highest level in more than three weeks a day earlier. The commodity rallied after a weekly reading on domestic inventories showed a smaller-than-expected rise. Production disruptions in Libya also gave rise to crude prices.
West Texas Intermediate crude oil declined by 0.3% to $50.22 a barrel on Thursday.
BlackBerry climbed nearly 5% after narrowing its loss from a year earlier and posting above-consensus adjusted profit. A per-share loss of 10 cents in the fourth quarter was more than a quarter wider than the loss a year earlier. Adjusted earnings of 4 cents a share came in higher than estimates of a break-even result. BlackBerry anticipates adjusted earnings over fiscal 2018.
TRC Cos. (TRR) jumped almost 45% to $17.30 after agreeing to be acquired by New Mountain Partners in a deal that values the company at a 47% premium to its close on Thursday. New Mountain will pay $17.55 a share in an all-cash deal. TRC CEO Chris Vincze said that the transaction would "deliver immediate value to our shareholders while enabling TRC to continue to pursue its long-term growth strategy."
Alcoa (AA) - Get Report was upgraded to outperform from market perform at BMO Capital, while its price target was upgraded to $45 from $35. The stock price is not factoring in higher commodity prices, BMO said.
Amazon (AMZN) - Get Report was initiated with a buy rating and $1,100 price target at Loop Capital. Analysts said the company has a runway for continued solid growth and can ultimately spin off its web services business.
DuPont (DD) - Get Report said Friday that it agreed to swap some assets with FMC Corp. (FMC) - Get Report in a deal worth around $1.6 billion. DuPont will sell its crop protection business to FMC for ownership of FMC Health and Nutrition and an additional $1.2 billion in cash. The deal is part of DuPont's efforts to comply with the European Union's requirements for its $130 billion merger with Dow Chemical (DOW) - Get Report . That deal is now expected to close in August, pushed back from a previous target of the first half of this year.
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