Wall Street gives up gains as markets end almost exactly flat

Stocks initially rose after Yellen told CNBC Thursday close that a $1.9 trillion package could help the US return to full employment, but the effect wore off by Friday's end

NYSE trading floor
Markit’s flash US composite PMI output index reading rose to 58.8 for February, up from 58.7 in January

4:05pm: Small caps fare better than big tech

The blue-chip index ended Friday just a single point higher at 31,495 after being up triple digits earlier in the day. The Nasdaq closed up 9 points at 13,878, and the S&P 500 slipped down into negative territory, dropping 7 points, 0.2%, to 3,907 and cementing a losing week.

The small-cap Russell 2000 index fared better, climbing 45 points, 2%, to 2,263.

Big tech was not so fortunate. Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT), Facebook Inc (NASDAQ:FB) and Amazon.com Inc (NASDAQ:AMZN) all saw shares fall more than 2%.

12:20pm: Tech leads Dow into the green

The Dow advanced 116 points, 0.4%, to 31,610 at midday. The Nasdaq jumped 78 points, 0.6%, to 13,944, while the S&P 500 picked up 7 points, 0.2%, to 3,921.

"Tech stocks are leading the rally today after the sector suffered the largest losses earlier in the week," Madden wrote. "The hopes of the Biden administration signing off on the $1.9 trillion relief package without support from Republicans never went away. Treasury Secretary, Janet Yellen, called for more stimulus last night — the message is still circulating today."

Yellen told CNBC after the Thursday close that a $1.9 trillion package could help the US return to full employment in a year's time. 

“We think it’s very important to have a big package [that] addresses the pain this has caused – 15 million Americans behind on their rent, 24 million adults and 12 million children who don’t have enough to eat, small businesses failing,” Yellen said on CNBC's Closing Bell. “I think the price of doing too little is much higher than the price of doing something big."

10:30am: Proactive North America headlines

Algernon Pharmaceuticals Inc (CSE:AGN) (OTCQB:AGNPF) (FRA:AGW) selects Dalton Pharma Services to synthesize DMT for its stroke studies

Goldcore Resources Ltd (CVE:EM) (OTCMKTS:CZSVF) (FRA:BK2P) says graphitic rock samples sent for processing to produce graphite concentrate to build test batteries

Tocvan Ventures Corp (CSE:TOC) (FRA:TV3) begins the next phase of exploration at its Pilar GoldSilver Project in Mexico

Predictiv AI Inc (CVE:PAI) (OTC:INOTF) (FRA:71TA) finds US ThermalPass channel distributor in visitor management company SISCO

Bam Bam Resources Corp (CSE:BBR) (OTCPINK:NPEZF) (FRA:4NPB) expands magnetic coverage with drone survey at Majuba Hill Porphyry Copper Project in Nevada

Empress Royalty Corp (CVE:EMPR) (OTCQB:EMPYF) common shares to commence trading on US OTCQB Venture Market at the open on Friday, February 19

Marrone Bio Innovations Inc (NASDAQ:MBII) (FRA:0MB) gets boosted $3.50 price target and repeat Buy rating from Canaccord Genuity

10:15am: Buoyant start for stocks

US blue-chips opened higher on Friday, recovering a chunk of the previous session’s triple-digit drop as US businesses reported their fastest growth for almost six years.

After three-quarters of an hour of trading, the Dow Jones Industrials Average was up 89.47 points or 0.3% at 31,582.89, while the tech-laden Nasdaq Composite – which also saw a triple-digit fall on Thursday – gained 0.4%, and the broader S&P 500 index took on 0.2%.

The gains came after Markit’s flash US composite PMI output index reading rose to 58.8 for February, up from 58.7 in January. The services business activity came in at 58.9, up from 58.3 last month, while the manufacturing PMI eased to 58.5 from 59.2 in January.

“The data add to signs that the economy is enjoying a strong opening quarter to 2021, buoyed by additional stimulus and the partial reopening of the economy as virus-related restrictions were eased on average across the country,” said Chris Williamson, chief business economist at IHS Markit, which compiles the survey.

“Business sentiment remains buoyant, boosted by hopes of further stimulus and the vaccine roll-out, but it’s disappointing to see this not yet translate into stronger jobs growth.”

Bitcoin continued its rally and is nearing a market capitalisation of US$1 trillion. The cryptocurrency rose 2.6% to an all-time high of US$52,932, representing a 60% surge since the start of February.

It is growing in popularity helped by endorsement from Elon Musk’s Tesla which bought US$1.5bn and announced it will accept it as a payment.

Mastercard and Bank of New York Mellon are looking to support certain cryptocurrencies, while Morgan Stanley may add Bitcoin to its possible bets. The latest institutional support came from Jeffrey Gundlach, founder and chief executive of DoubleLine Capital.

7:50am: Small gains expected at end of week

US stocks are expected to open modestly higher on Friday, steadying after big falls on Thursday as traders await a batch of US economic data.

The Dow Jones Industrials Average, the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq Composite are called to add a handful of points in early trading, with the Dow and Nasdaq both having notched up triple-digit losses in the previous session.

Traders are still digesting the GameStop Congressional hearing while awaiting the latest Markit flash US PMI readings for both the manufacturing and services sectors.

Later on Friday, US climate change envoy John Kerry is scheduled to formally get back to the Paris agreement after the Trump administration withdrew from it.

Looking at commodities, the oil price fell below US$60 per barrel as wells are recommencing activity in Texas after cold-weather disruption, not helped by Iraq boosting its crude oil exports despite pledging to restrain production.

Conversely, Bitcoin hit the US$52,000 mark after Tesla CEO Elon Musk called it a “less dumb” version of cash while defending the electric car maker’s US$1.5bn investment in the cryptocurrency.

Six things to watch on Friday:

The UK’s top court has ruled that a group of former drivers for Uber Technologies Inc. were entitled to a minimum wage and other benefits while working for the company, dealing a setback to Uber and other gig-economy firms in world-wide battles over their employment model.

HSBC Holdings PLC does not need to hand over banking documents requested by Huawei Technologies Co. Chief Financial Officer Meng Wanzhou as part of her effort to resist a US extradition order, a judge in London’s High Court said Friday.

International Business Machines Corp. is exploring a potential sale of its IBM Watson Health business, according to the Wall Street Journal which cited people familiar with the matter, as the technology giant’s new chief executive moves to streamline the company and become more competitive in cloud computing.

Applied Materials Inc rose after it forecast second-quarter revenue above market expectations, as demand for its semiconductor manufacturing tools picked up during a global shortage of semiconductors.

Roku Inc gained after the video-streaming device maker reported quarterly revenue above market expectations, thanks to an influx of cord-cutting subscribers dropping their cable packages for streaming services.

Robinhood Markets Inc. chief executive officer, Vlad Tenev offered an apology for the company’s decision to temporarily curb trading in some stocks, including GameStop Corp. , on January 28 amid extraordinary volatility. His apology came after House Financial Services Committee Chairwoman Maxine Waters interrupted the Robinhood CEO during his opening remarks to US lawmakers.


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