Stocks waver in afternoon trading on Wall Street

Stock market flips from gains to losses; Verizon climbs after Buffett reveals stake

Associated Press
Stock market manages slight gain after choppy day

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Trader Steven Kaplan, center, works on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange Friday, May 16, 2014. The stock market is little changed in early trading following sharp declines the previous day. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)

NEW YORK (AP) -- U.S. stocks are wavering in afternoon trading Friday. After taking a hard hit in the middle of the week, major indexes are on track to end it with a slight loss.

KEEPING SCORE: The Standard & Poor's 500 index was down one point, or 0.1 percent, to 1,871 as of 1 p.m. Eastern time. The Dow Jones industrial average slipped 18 points, also 0.1 percent, to 16,428. The Nasdaq composite index fell 15 points, or 0.4 percent, to 4,054.

HOUSING MARKET: Builders started work on more houses in April, as U.S. construction surged to its highest pace in six months, according to the Commerce Department. But almost all of that increase came from new apartment buildings, a sign that Americans are still struggling to buy single-family homes.

BUFFETT BUMP: Verizon Communications had the biggest gain among the 30 big companies in the Dow, after Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway revealed a new investment in the telecom late Thursday. Other big-name investors, including John Paulson, also reportedly took stakes. Verizon climbed $1.24, or 3 percent, to $49.21.

MORE SALES: J.C. Penney's stock jumped $1.36, or 16 percent, to $9.72. Rising sales helped the department store chain turn in better results than analysts expected late Thursday. Sales at stores open at least a year — a key gauge of a chain's health — increased more than 6 percent in its first quarter.

RETAIL RUN: Nordstrom surged $7.87, or 13 percent, to $69.29, the biggest gain in the S&P 500. The luxury retailer reported higher quarterly profits than analysts had expected late Thursday, as better sales at its discount Rack stores boosted results.

LOOK BACK: After its worst one-day drop in a month on Thursday, the S&P 500 is headed for a slight loss for the second week in a row. Earlier in the week, the benchmark for most U.S. stock funds notched all-time highs for two straight days.

CONTEXT: "We're so used to hitting record highs that all of a sudden two down days seem tragic," said Dan Cook, a director at Nadex, an exchange in Chicago. "We're at high levels so it's a time to be cautious."

EUROPE: France's CAC 40 rose 0.3 percent, while Germany's DAX fell 0.3 percent. In the U.K., London's FTSE 100 edged up 0.2 percent.

ASIA: Japan's main index, the Nikkei, sank 1.4 percent. In China, Hong Kong's Hang Seng lost 0.2 percent, while on the mainland, the Shanghai Composite edged up 0.1 percent.

OTHER MARKETS: U.S. government bonds barely moved, holding yields near their lows for the year. The yield on the 10-year U.S. Treasury was 2.51 percent, up from 2.49 percent late Thursday. Gold fell $2.50 to $1,291.10 an ounce. Crude oil rose 16 cents to $101.66 a barrel.

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