US stocks ended down on Friday for the fourth week in a row with trade dulled by disappointing economic data and investors looking ahead to the long Memorial Day holiday weekend.
A range of unimpressive figures on GDP growth, the housing industry, industrial production and job layoffs kept optimism in check, although stronger commodity prices helped oil, mining and farm shares keep the markets from dropping harder.
“Ahead of a long weekend, it is rare that investors make any important moves,” Evariste Lefeuvre of Natixis said.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed at 12,441.58, off just 0.56 percent from the week earlier and 2.0 percent down over the past four weeks.
The broader S&P 500 finished at 1,331.10, 0.16 percent lower than the previous Friday’s close, and 1.8 percent off from the end of last month.
The tech-heavy NASDAQ Composite pared 0.2 percent for the week and 2.5 percent for the four weeks to 2,796.86.
“We started out with big down move on Monday and spent the rest of the week recouping that,” Marc Pado of Cantor Fitzgerald said. “The last couple of days had a lot to do with month-end type window-dressing. A lot of people did foresee the market was going to pull back.”
“The economic news hasn’t been impressive, but nothing too far off the mark,” he added. “Going into a three-day week-end, the trading is light.”
The small degree of the fall testified to the continued presence of bulls looking for signs that the economy’s engines might get a new dose of fuel.
However, Europe’s continuing debt problems continued to cast a shadow over the markets worldwide.
“Europe’s credit bubble may be as big or even bigger than America’s mortgage bubble,” Linda Duessel of Federated Investors said.
“This is why the markets continue to be nervous about Europe’s sovereign debt issues and took a tumble Monday on Italy’s downwardly revised credit outlook, another ratings downgrade on Greek debt and Spanish elections that raised questions about its ability to push through austerity measures,” she said.
In sectors, energy shares were up 1.7 percent for the five days and basic materials — mainly mining — added 1.4 percent. Transport and utility shares, which get hurt by higher oil prices, both lost 0.7 -percent. Tech shares fell 0.2 percent.
The tech sector’s newest darling, Russian search engine Yandex, showed that there was still appetite for Internet shares. It hit the market on Tuesday after an initial public offering (IPO) priced at US$25 a share. On Friday it closed at US$34.45 for a 37.8 percent gain for the week.
Meanwhile LinkedIn, the professional social network that went public the previous Thursday, finished the week at US$88.32, 96 percent above its IPO price.
Next week’s trading will be shortened by the Memorial Day holiday tomorrow.
Eyes will be on how new data shapes up the picture for economic growth, after analysts pulled down their estimates for the second quarter to well below 3 percent in the past week.
There will be the Conference Board’s consumer confidence survey for this month (Tuesday); construction spending last month (Wednesday); the ISM manufacturing index from this month (Wednesday); this month’s auto sales (Wednesday); first quarter business productivity (Thursday); ISM services index for this month (Friday) and this month’s jobs creation and unemployment (Friday).