Stock market edges lower, but indexes set for sizable quarterly jump – MarketWatch

U.S. stocks on Friday were trading slightly lower, however the main indexes were on track for sizable weekly and quarterly gains. The Dow industrials was set to post the sixth straight quarterly gain, the longest streak since 2006.

The S&P 500 index SPX, -0.04%  was off by 4 points, or 0.2%, at 2,363 with six of the 11 main sectors trading lower. Financials, which enjoyed a rally on Thursday, were pulling back the most, down 0.4%.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average DJIA, -0.21%  slipped 40 points, or 0.2%, to 20,686.

The Nasdaq Composite COMP, +0.02%  declined 12 points, or 0.2%, to 5,902, snapping its four-day winning streak and retreating from the record it set on Thursday.

Friday marks the end of the week, month and quarter. The Nasdaq is set to log the best performance of the major U.S. indexes in March—a 1.3% rise, with one more session to go. The S&P 500 is set to finish the month roughly where it started, while the Dow is set to lose about 0.6% for the month.

For the first quarter, the Nasdaq is set to deliver the best return of the three main indexes, with a nearly 10% gain. The S&P 500 is eyeing a 5.8% rise. The DJIA is poised to add nearly 5%, which would be its sixth-straight positive quarter and the longest winning streak since the fourth quarter of 2006.

Friday’s moves will have a lot to do with month-end positioning, so investors shouldn’t read too much into them, said Craig Erlam, senior market analyst at Oanda, in emailed comments.

“It’s been a very good first quarter, with the 20,000 hurdle in the Dow proving to be the catalyst for another spring higher. March appears to just be a natural pullback at the minute, but it’s still early to say,” said Erlam.

“We’ll get a much better idea of how much faith investors have in [U.S. President Donald] Trump and therefore the rally early on in the quarter, with some investors possibly already seeing this as the dip that should be bought,” he added.

Data and Fed speakers: The rate of inflation in consumer goods and services topped 2% in February for the first time since 2012. A government report that tracks consumer spending showed a scant 0.1% increase last month.

The Chicago purchasing managers index for March edged up to 57.7 from 57.4 in February. The University of Michigan survey of consumer sentiment for March is scheduled for release at 10 a.m. Eastern.

Opinion: Why soaring consumer confidence should worry investors

William Dudley, the president of the New York Fed, told Bloomberg two more rate increases in 2017 ‘seems reasonable’. Though he cautioned that higher consumer, business confidence is not translating into hard data.

St. Louis Fed President James Bullard is scheduled to appear on Bloomberg TV at 10:30 a.m. Eastern.

In between, Minneapolis Fed President Neel Kashkari will hold a question-and-answer session at the Annual Banking Law Institute in Minneapolis at 10 a.m. Eastern.

Stocks to watch: BlackBerry Ltd. BB, +14.78%  shares jumped 11% after trimming losses and stating that it expects to be profitable on an adjusted earnings-per-share basis in fiscal 2018.

Akari Therapeutics PLC AKTX, +20.77%  soared 23% after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration granted one of its treatments a “fast-track” designation.

DuPont DD, -0.80%  on Friday said it would sell part of its crop-protection business to FMC Corp. FMC, +14.59%  in exchange for $1.2 billion in cash and FMC Health and Nutrition. Shares of FMC rose 15%, while DuPont was 1% lower.

Other markets: Asian stocks ADOW, -0.50%  finished Friday’s session on a largely weaker note, with the Nikkei 225 index NIK, -0.81%  marking its lowest close since Feb. 1 at 18,909, and losing 1.1% on the quarter. One of the best quarterly performances in the region came from the Hong Kong Hang Seng Index HSI, -0.78% which finished up 9.6%.

The Stoxx Europe 600 index SXXP, +0.13%  fell, but was headed for its third-straight quarterly rise. The FTSE 100 index UKX, -0.33% also down, was set for its longest quarterly winning streak since 2011.

Gold GCM7, +0.06%  eased, while oil prices CLK7, -0.20%  inched lower. The ICE Dollar Index DXY, -0.09%  was trading modestly higher.

The South African rand USDZAR, +0.9880%  was under pressure against the U.S. dollar Friday after Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan was sacked early Friday by South African President Jacob Zuma.

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