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24-Apr2018

US markets closed mostly lower; S&P reports minor gain

The US markets closed mostly lower on Monday, as investors grappled with rising bond yields and a mixed bag of earnings reports. The closely watched yield on the 10-year Treasury note climbed, settling just below the psychologically important 3% level. On the economy front, a measure of the US economy from the Chicago Federal Reserve cooled in March from an upwardly revised, multiyear-high February reading as weaker hiring within a still-strong job market pushed down the broader index. The Chicago Fed's index of national economic activity was a positive 0.10 last month, down from the upwardly revised positive 0.98 in February. February's result was the highest marker for this volatile index since positive 1.19 in October 1999. The index's less-volatile, three-month moving average registered a positive 0.18 last month, down slightly from 0.20 in February.

On the other hand, American companies grew faster in April, especially manufacturers, in a reflection of a steadily expanding US economy. But inflationary pressures increased as well. The flash IHS Markit US manufacturing PMI climbed to 56.5 this month from 55.5 and touched a three-and-a-half-year high. A similar survey of service-oriented businesses that employ most Americans also rose. It edged up to 54.4 from 54. A flash reading is typically based on approximately 85%-90% of responses each month.

Meanwhile, the National Association of Realtors said that existing-home sales were at a 5.60 million seasonally adjusted annual pace in March. Sales of previously-owned homes rose 1.1% in March, but were 1.2% lower than a year ago. The median price for homes sold in March was $250,400, up 5.8% compared to a year ago. Homes stayed on the market an average 30 days in March; at the current pace of sales, it would take 3.6 months to exhaust available inventory, down sharply from the long-time average of 6 months. As always, sales were very mixed regionally. Sales surged 6.3% in the Northeast and 5.7% in the Midwest. They dropped 3.1% in the West and edged down 0.4% in the South.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average lost 14.25 points or 0.06 percent to 24,448.69, the Nasdaq dropped 17.525 points or 0.25 percent to 7,128.60, while the S&P 500 was up by 0.15 points or 0.01 percent to 2,670.29.


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