U.S. Markets closed

Stocks close narrowly mixed; Dow clings to weekly gains

Evelyn Cheng

U.S. stocks closed mixed Friday, dragged down by declines in financial and health care stocks.

"It's expiration so there's a lot of noise related to that," said Peter Boockvar, chief market analyst at The Lindsey Group.

Trade volume across the U.S. exchanges topped 9.4 billion, the most since Dec. 16.

The third Friday of every March, June, September, and December is quadruple "witching," the expiration of three related classes of options and futures contracts, along with individual stock futures options. Friday is also St. Patrick's Day.

The major averages closed higher for the week, with the Dow Jones industrial average holding a 0.06 percent weekly gain. The bulk of the week's gains came Wednesday after the Fed raised rates, as expected, but took a more dovish tone than expected.

"The interesting thing is a month ago nobody expected them to raise in March," Boockvar said. "The market's still in that 'everything is good mode.'"

The Nasdaq composite posted its seventh positive day in eight — closing just 0.24 points higher Friday as shares of Adobe, (ADBE) Microsoft (MSFT), and Starbucks (SBUX) climbed. The Nasdaq failed to set a record close despite briefly hitting a fresh all-time intraday high of 5,912.61, topping the old record set on March 1.

The iShares Nasdaq Biotechnology ETF (IBB) (IBB) dropped 1.1 percent for a weekly loss of nearly 1.8 percent. Shares of Amgen (AMGN) fell 6.5 percent after disappointing results from its latest cholesterol-lowering drug.

Financial stocks fell 1.06 percent as the worst performer in the S&P 500 to end the week about 0.9 percent lower. Utilities closed more than half a percent higher to lead sector advancers and gained nearly 1.3 percent for the week.

"I think we're getting in and out of a very hectic week in terms of catalysts and into one that's less catalyst-filled," said Art Hogan, chief market strategist at Wunderlich Securities.

U.S. crude oil futures settled up 3 cents, or 0.06 percent, at $48.78 a barrel, for a weekly gain of 0.6 percent. Oil was little changed after Baker Hughes said the weekly U.S. rig count rose by 14 oil rigs to a total of 631.

For markets, "what's most relevant is the trajectory and the momentum of global economic growth, which ... looks pretty good," said Bill Stone, chief investment strategist at PNC Asset Management.

The iShares MSCI Emerging Markets ETF (EEM) (NYSE Arca: EEM) closed a touch lower on the day but held gains of nearly 4 percent for the week, its best since July 2016.

On the data front, industrial production came in unchanged for February. Capacity utilization edged 0.1 percent lower to 75.4 percent.

The University of Michigan preliminary read on consumer sentiment for March was 97.6.

Treasury yields traded slightly lower, with the 2-year yield (U.S.:US2Y) around 1.32 percent and the 10-year yield (U.S.:US10Y) around 2.50 percent.

The U.S. dollar index traded little changed, with the euro around $1.073 and the yen near 112.7.

Overseas, the STOXX Europe 600 closed 0.16 percent higher. The Shanghai composite ended nearly 1 percent lower, while the Nikkei 225 fell 0.35 percent.

The Dow Jones industrial average closed down 19.93 points, or 0.10 percent, at 20,914.62. Boeing (BA) and 3M (MMM) contributed the most to gains, while Goldman Sachs (GS) had the greatest negative impact.

The Dow gained 0.06 percent for the week, its fifth positive week in six. For the week, Home Depot (HD) had the greatest positive impact, while Goldman contributed the most to losses.

The S&P 500 closed 3.13 points lower, or 0.13 percent, at 2,378.25. Financials led four sectors lower, while utilities was the top performer.

The index gained 0.24 percent for the week, its seventh positive week in eight. Real estate was the top performer on the week, while financials lagged.

The Nasdaq composite closed up 0.24 points, or 0.00 percent, at 5,901.00. The Nasdaq gained about two-thirds of a percent for its seventh positive week in eight.

The Russell 2000 small-cap index gained 1.9 percent for the week, its best since Dec. 9.

The CBOE Volatility Index (VIX), widely considered the best gauge of fear in the market,was last slightly higher near 11.3.

About three stocks advanced for every two decliners on the New York Stock Exchange, with an exchange volume of 2.3 billion and a composite volume of nearly 5.1 billion in the close.

High-frequency trading accounted for 52 percent of March's daily trading volume of about 6.95 billion shares, according to TABB Group. During the peak levels of high-frequency trading in 2009, about 61 percent of 9.8 billion of average daily shares traded were executed by high-frequency traders.

Gold futures for April delivery settled up $3.10 at $1,230.20 an ounce. Gold gained 2.4 percent for the week, its best since Feb. 3.