The U.S. equity markets paring most of their early gains ended mixed on Friday after Special Counsel Robert Mueller's office revealed that a federal grand jury has indicted several Russian nationals for allegedly interfering in the 2016 presidential election. The indictment does not allege collusion between the Russians and President Donald Trump's campaign but could still cause headaches for the president. The strength seen earlier in the day came, as traders once again shrugged off further indications of rising inflation, with a report from the Labor Department showing import prices jumped by more than expected in the month of January. The import prices surged up by 1.0 percent in January after edging up by a revised 0.2 percent in December. The market participants had expected import prices to climb by 0.6 percent compared to the 0.1 percent uptick originally reported for the previous month. The export prices increased by 0.8 percent in January after inching up by a revised 0.1 percent in December. Export prices had been expected to rise by 0.3 percent compared to the 0.1 percent drop originally reported for the previous month.
A separate report from the Commerce Department showed a much bigger than expected rebound in new residential construction in January. The housing starts soared by 9.7 percent to an annual rate of 1.326 million in January after tumbling by 6.9 percent to a revised 1.209 million in December. The street had expected housing starts to climb by 3.5 percent to an annual rate of 1.234 million from the 1.192 million originally reported for the previous month. Building permits, an indicator of future housing demand, also surged up by 7.4 percent to an annual rate of 1.396 million in January from the revised December rate of 1.300 million. The University of Michigan also released a report unexpectedly showing a significant improvement in consumer sentiment in the month of February. The preliminary reading on the consumer sentiment index for February came in at 99.9, up from the final January reading of 95.7. The traders had expected the index to edge down to 95.5.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average added 19.01 points or 0.08 percent to 25,219.38 and S&P 500 rose 1.02 points or 0.04 percent to 2,732.22, while Nasdaq was down by 16.97 points or 0.23 percent to 7,239.46.