Wall Street ends flat after choppy session

  • 29/03/2016

Wall Street was mixed as weaker-than-expected US economic data reduced concerns about potential interest rate hikes and a dip in oil prices pushed down energy shares.

US consumer spending barely rose in February and inflation retreated, suggesting the Federal Reserve could remain cautious about raising interest rates this year even as the labour market rapidly tightens.

Trading was choppy and volume was low on Monday, with markets closed in Europe.

The S&P has mostly recovered from a 10 percent loss at the start of 2016 but many investors remain wary of potential interest rate hikes, the impact of volatile oil prices and an anaemic global economy.

"I don't think we're out of the woods," said Frank Gretz, a technical analyst at Wellington Shields & Co, a brokerage in New York. "I've noticed some loss of momentum in the last week."

Investors will pay close attention to Fed chair Janet Yellen's speech in New York on Tuesday for clues about when the central bank might raise interest rates.

"We'll be watching her to see if there is any change in her language or views, but the Street does not expect her to do anything to surprise the markets," said Warren West, principal at Greentree Brokerage Services in Philadelphia.

The S&P consumer discretionary and consumer staples sectors rose 0.51 percent and 0.43 percent respectively. The utilities sector lost 0.36 per cent and energy lost 0.34 percent.

Crude prices moved lower, with US crude below $US40 a barrel.

The Dow Jones industrial average rose 0.11 percent to finish at 17,535.39 points and the S&P 500 edged up 0.05 percent to 2,037.05.

The Nasdaq Composite dropped 0.14 percent to 4,766.79.

Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide rose 1.97 percent after China's Anbang Insurance Group raised its offer for the US hotel operator to almost $US14 billion, the latest challenge to its merger with Marriott International.

Noble Energy dropped 8.19 percent after the company warned of a possible delay in the development of a key natural gas field in Israel.

Pandora Media fell 12.17 percent after the music streaming company said its founder Tim Westergren was coming back as chief executive.

Cal-Maine Foods jumped 8.76 percent after reporting higher-than-expected quarterly profit.

Advancing issues outnumbered decliners on the NYSE by 1738 to 1287. On the Nasdaq, 1531 issues fell and 1265 fell.

The S&P 500 index showed 29 new 52-week highs and one new low, while the Nasdaq recorded 27 new highs and 42 new lows.

About 5.1 billion shares changed hands on US exchanges, below the 8 billion daily average for the past 20 trading days, according to Thomson Reuters data.