U.S. stock indexes meandered above and below the day’s break-even line in afternoon trading Thursday, as defensive stocks led the gainers.
XAutoplay: On | OffThe Nasdaq and S&P 500 rose 0.1% while the Dow Jones industrial average fell a fraction. The small-cap Russell 2000 rose about 0.15%. Volume in the stock market today was higher on the NYSE and lower on the Nasdaq compared with the same time Wednesday.
The day’s leaders had a defensive tilt. The Dow Jones utility average rose 0.7%. Diversified utilities, hospitals and generic drugs showed some of the best gains.
Top-rated groups were struggling in afternoon action. For example, the homebuilder group fell 1.6% on growing conviction that President Trump’s pro-tariff policies are making lumber more expensive. In April, the Trump administration announced new tariffs on Canadian lumber of up to 24%. Market watchers say the tariffs are acting as an economic depressant, countering the stimulus of deregulation.
The homebuilder group is down 3.3% so far this week. If that loss holds, it would be the biggest weekly percentage drop for the group since late October.
Blue chips were mostly up, but a 4.2% drop in Home Depot (HD) weighed on the Dow Jones industrial average.
The stock of Sears was up 14%, while Lowe’s and Best Buy lost 5% and 3.5%, respectively.
Meanwhile, banks have been struggling to find thrust from recent quarterly reports that generally beat the Street’s numbers. On Thursday, Bank of New York Mellon (BK) rose 2% to a 52-week high after reporting earnings that topped estimates by 10.7%.
The money-center banks group has risen 9% since the end of May, outperforming the S&P 500 and Nasdaq, which rose about 3% in that same period.