Wall Street ended Friday with slight losses as uncertainty over the upcoming French election kept investors on edge, while crude oil endured another sharp drop.
The S&P 500 was down 0.30%, and the Nasdaq slid 0.11%. The Dow Jones Industrial Average finished down 0.15%.
The first round of voting in France's closely watched presidential election will take place over the weekend. France goes to the polls Sunday in an election that could decide the fate of the European Union. Eleven candidates will be in the initial round of voting. Any of four of them, spanning the spectrum from extreme-right to extreme-left, could progress to a second round of voting on May 7, when the two most popular candidates will face off.
The outcome of the election grows even more uncertain after Thursday's shooting on Paris' Champs-Elysees boulevard that killed a police officer and wounded three other people. ISIS claimed responsibility for the attack.
Deutsche Bank analysts said in a note that current polls suggest centrist Emmanuel Macron has a roughly 80% chance of winning the election, beating out far-right candidate Marine Le Pen. The firm said Le Pen would have a higher chance of winning the overall election if she tops the first round with a gap larger than five percentage points.
Another slump in oil prices also pressured markets as West Texas Intermediate crude fell below $50 a barrel for the first time in April. The number of active rigs drilling for oil rose by 5 to 688 in the past week, according to Baker Hughes data. Crude sold off earlier this week after U.S. inventories declined, though not at the pace expected.
West Texas Intermediate crude closed 2.2% lower at $49.62 a barrel, falling for its fifth day in a row.
President Donald Trump teased a long-promised tax reform package in comments on Friday afternoon. In an interview with the Associated Press, Trump pledged to deliver his tax plans next week with an announcement set for Wednesday. He said the package would include a "massive tax cut" for businesses and individuals and said it could be "bigger, I believe, than any tax cut ever." Also on Friday afternoon, Trump ordered the Treasury to simplify the tax code and ease regulations on banks.
General Electric (GE) swung to a first-quarter profit. Net income of $619 million, or 7 cents a share, compared with losses of $61 million, or 1 cent a share, in the same quarter a year earlier. Adjusted earnings of 21 cents a share beat consensus by 4 cents. Revenue declined 1% to $27.66 billion, though topped analysts' estimates of $26.37 billion. GE saw growth in its oil and gas, health care, transportation, and power businesses, among others.
Visa (V) was flat following better-than-expected quarterly earnings. The credit card company earned 86 cents a share, 7 cents higher than expected. Revenue climbed 23.1% to $4.47 billion. Payments volume grew 37% to $1.7 trillion, while total processed transactions increased 42%. Visa also authorized a $5 billion stock repurchase program.
Schlumberger (SLB) shares fell 2% after the oilfield services company reported first quarter revenue below analyst expectations for the period. Earnings of 25 cents a share met consensus, while revenue of $6.89 billion came in short of a target of $6.98 billion.
Honeywell (HON) rose nearly 3% after exceeding analysts' estimates in its recent quarter. Net income of $1.33 billion, or $1.71 a share, compared to $1.21 billion, or $1.56 a share, in the same quarter last year. Adjusted earnings of $1.66 a share beat estimates of $1.62. Revenue of $9.49 billion came in higher than a target of $9.33 billion. Honeywell also increased the low-end bracket of its fiscal guidance by a nickel, and now anticipates earnings of $6.90 to $7.10 a share.
Mattel (MAT) fell 13% after reporting a wider loss than anticipated and a double-digit percentage decline in revenue over its recent quarter. The toymaker reported a loss of 32 cents a share, 15 cents wider than anticipated. Sales dropped 15.4% to $735.6 million, $70 million short of consensus. Mattel recommitted to a quarterly dividend of 38 cents a share.
Skechers (SKX) topped analysts' estimates on the top- and bottom-lines over the first quarter. The shoe brand earned 60 cents a share, 6 cents above estimates, while revenue came in above $1 billion for the first time in the company's history.
It's been a busy week of earnings with industry bellwethers, including Goldman Sachs (GS) and American Express (AXP) , divulging their recent quarterly performances. So far, more than 16% of S&P 500 companies have reported on their quarters and nearly a third of Dow companies have reported this week. Analysts anticipate blended earnings growth of almost 11%, according to Thomson Reuters.
A flash reading on IHS Markit's U.S. PMI showed a slight decline in April to 52.8 from 53.3. The measure's services index declined to 52.5 in April from 52.8. Both manufacturing and services fell to seven-month lows in April, indicating a sluggish start to spring.
Existing home sales in the U.S. jumped in March at their best pace since 2007. Sales of previously owned properties rose 4.4% in March to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.71 million, according to the National Association of Realtors. The housing market has benefited from strong demand for months.
Retailer Bebe (BEBE) rose 6% after announcing it will close all stores by May this year. The company had 180 retail stores as of the end of 2016, employing more than 2,000 people. Bebe will record a $20 million impairment charge in the third and fourth quarter tied to the closures.
Ocwen Financial (OCN) rebounded 2% on Friday after losing more than half its value a day earlier. The company plummeted on a ruling in North Carolina that prohibited the company from acquiring new mortgage service rights or creating new mortgages. The court has ruled the cease and desist will stay in place until Ocwen can prove its financial stability.