Wall Street on Friday closed out a solid quarter with a day of listless trading that ended on a soft note.
The S&P 500 notched its best three-month stretch since the fourth quarter of 2015, while the NASDAQ composite turned in its best quarter since the end of 2013.
The S&P 500, NASDAQ and the Dow Jones industrial average ended the day down slightly, with financial companies posting the biggest decline. Real-estate companies led the gainers.
Trading was largely subdued, suggesting portfolio managers looking to bolster their end-of-quarter performance had made their moves earlier in the week, Prudential Financial Inc market strategist Quincy Krosby said.
“The market has performed very well,” she said.
The Dow on Friday slid 65.27 points, or 0.3 percent, to 20,663.22, a 0.32 percent increase from 20,596.72 a week earlier.
The S&P 500 lost 5.34 points, or 2 percent, to 2,362.72. That compared with a close of 2,343.98 on March 24.
The NASDAQ fell 2.61 points to close at 5,911.74, an increase of 1.41 percent from 5,828.74 a week earlier. The index hit an all-time high on Thursday. Small-company stocks fared better than the rest of the market.
The Russell 2000 index picked up 3.57 points, or 0.3 percent, to close at 1,385.92, compared with 1,354.64 a week earlier.
The major stock indices got off to a downbeat start on Friday and spent much of the day wavering between small gains and losses as investors weighed several corporate deals and new economic data on consumer spending and inflation.
The US Department of Commerce said consumer spending kept rising in February, although gains in the past two months have been slow.
Meanwhile, an inflation gauge closely watched by the US Federal Reserve increased 2.1 percent in February compared with a year ago, a five-year high.
The latest economic data followed positive reports on consumer confidence, housing and economic growth earlier this week, which have added to the market’s expectation for stronger first-quarter corporate earnings.
All told, the S&P 500 ended the first three months of this year with a gain of 5.5 percent, the NASDAQ posted a gain of 9.8 percent and the Dow climbed 4.6 percent.
The Russell 2000 ended the quarter with a gain of 2.1 percent, its fourth quarter of growth in a row.
Investors bid up shares in companies with better-than-expected earnings on Friday.
Industrial products company DXP Enterprises jumped US$5.13, or 15.7 percent, to US$37.87, while BlackBerry Ltd surged US$1.03, or 11.1 percent, to US$10.30.
NantHealth LLC did not fare as well. The healthcare information technology company slid 2.7 percent after it reported disappointing fourth-quarter revenue. The stock shed US$0.13 to US$4.96.
Auto dealership companies were among the decliners on Friday. AutoNation Inc fell US$1.20, or 2.8 percent, to US$42.29, while CarMax Inc slid US$0.84, or 1.4 percent, to US$59.22.
Traders cheered several corporate deals.
TRC vaulted 46 percent after the engineering and consulting services company agreed to be bought by a unit of investment firm New Mountain Capital for US$17.55 per share, or US$365.5 million. The stock climbed US$5.50 to US$17.45.
Shares in FMC Corp also got a lift after the company agreed to buy part of DuPont’s crop protection business. At the same time, DuPont is to buy FMC’s health and nutrition unit, but also get US$1.6 billion, mostly in cash.
Anti-trust regulators in Europe wanted DuPont to make the sale as part of its combination with competitor Dow Chemical Co.
FMC jumped US$8.09, or 13.2 percent, to US$69.59. DuPont shares fell US$1.31, or 1.6 percent, to US$80.33.
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