Dow, S&P 500 Little Changed In Afternoon Trading, Nasdaq Firmly Negative

After moving to the upside early in the session, stocks have given back ground over the course of the trading day on Friday. The tech-heavy Nasdaq has pulled back firmly into negative territory, while the Dow and the S&P 500 are lingering near the unchanged line.

Currently, the Dow is up 26.73 points or 0.1 percent at 34,734.67 and the S&P 500 is up 3.38 points or 0.1 percent at 4,523.54, but the Nasdaq is down 92.68 points or 0.7 percent at 14,099.16.

The lackluster performance on Wall Street comes as the U.S. and the European Union have signed an agreement for the supply of liquefied natural gas to reduce reliance on Russian supply.

On the U.S. economic front, the National Association of Realtors released a report showing pending home sales unexpectedly saw further downside in the month of February.

NAR said its pending home sales index tumbled by 4.1 percent to 104.9 in February after plunging by 5.8 percent to a revised 109.4 in January. The continued decrease came as a surprise to economists, who had expected the index to rebound by 1.0 percent.

A pending home sale is one in which a contract was signed but not yet closed. Normally, it takes four to six weeks to close a contracted sale.

Meanwhile, revised data released by the University of Michigan showed consumer sentiment in the U.S. fell by more than initially estimated in the month of March.

The report showed the consumer sentiment index for March was downwardly revised to 59.4 from the preliminary reading of 59.7. Economists had expected the index to be unrevised.

With the unexpected downward revision, the consumer sentiment was at its lowest level since hitting 55.8 in August of 2011.

Sector News

Despite the lackluster performance by the broader markets, natural gas stocks continue to see substantial strength on the day, with the NYSE Arca Natural Gas Index spiking by 3.9 percent.

The strength in the sector comes as the price of natural gas for April delivery is jumping $0.11 or 2 percent to $5.511 per million BTUs.

Significant strength also remains among oil service stocks, as reflected by the 3.5 percent surge by the Philadelphia Oil Service Index. The rally by oil service stocks comes amid an increase by the price of crude oil.

Airline, banking and tobacco stocks are also seeing notable strength on the day, while biotechnology and semiconductor stocks have moved to the downside.

Other Markets

In overseas trading, stock markets across the Asia-Pacific region turned in a mixed performance during trading on Friday. Japan’s Nikkei 225 Index inched up by 0.1 percent, while China’s Shanghai Composite Index slumped by 1.2 percent.

Meanwhile, European stocks saw modest strength on the day. While the French CAC 40 Index ended the session nearly unchanged, the German DAX Index and the U.K.’s FTSE 100 Index both edged up by 0.2 percent.

In the bond market, treasuries have moved sharply lower amid growing expectations the Federal Reserve plans to raise interest rates more aggressively. Subsequently, the yield on the bench mark ten-year note, which moves opposite of its price, is up by 14. basis points at 2.486 percent.

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