NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Stocks were hovering just under the flatline after consumer sentiment hit a seven-month low in May and weak industrial data in April suggested a bounceback from the dismal first quarter could be more gradual than hoped for.
The S&P 500 and the Dow Jones Industrial Average were flat, while the Nasdaq slid 0.12%.
Consumer sentiment in May fell to a preliminary reading of 88.6, a seven-month low, according to the University of Michigan's consumer survey. Economists had expected a May level of 94.5 after a final reading of 95.9 in April.
"Consumers in May became more convinced that the rebound from the economic slowdown in Q1 would be neither quick nor robust. It particular, the weak March employment report appears to have undermined confidence," said Michelle Girard, chief U.S. economist at RBS Securities.
Industrial production remained weak in April, down 0.3%, notching its fifth straight decline. Economists had expected a flat reading after the measure fell 0.6% in March.
"Industrial production in April was dragged down by a drop back in utilities output, as the earlier weather-related distortion was unwound, and a sharp decline in oil and gas drilling," said Paul Ashworth, chief U.S. economist at Capital Economics.
The Empire State manufacturing index moved into positive territory in May, but not by enough to satisfy expectations. Manufacturing conditions in New York rose to 3.1 from a negative reading of 1.2 in April, though the reading came in below estimates of 5.5.
"From the Fed's perspective, economic reality is once again maintaining a wide spread from the Committee's more optimistic forecast for accelerated growth," said Lindsey Piegza, chief economist at Sterne Agee. "Keep in mind, after a slow start out of the gate, the economy must now reach and sustain a +3% growth rate from here on out to meet even the Fed's new, lowered bar of expectations."
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El Pollo Loco (LOCO) was a drag after guiding for full-year earnings on the soft side and reporting disappointing restaurant sales for the most recent quarter. The Mexican food chain reported system-wide comparable restaurant sales up 5.1% in the quarter, below forecasts of a 5.7% increase.
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Deere & Company (DE) fell after receiving a downgrade to "underweight" from Morgan Stanley. Analysts said the industry was in "dire straits with the potential for a liquidity crunch for farmers into 2016."
Hertz (HTZ) moved higher after announcing it will close around 200 locations in the U.S. as part of its cost-cutting measures. The closures will save the car rental company about $10 million a year. Hertz plans to cut about $200 million by year's end.
Dillard's (DDS) shares fell after the department store missed analysts' estimates for earnings and revenue in the first quarter. The company earned $2.66 a share, below analysts' estimates of $2.78 a share for the quarter. Revenue grew to $1.57 billion in the first quarter from $1.55 billion in the year-ago quarter, missing analysts' estimates of $1.61 billion.
Stocks rallied back to record levels on Thursday, helped by continued weakness in the U.S. dollar and as Treasury yields stabilized. The S&P 500 closed 3 points above a previous record, while the Dow hovered within 40 points of its high.