by Investing.com Staff, Investing.com
At the close of U.S. trading, the Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 0.25%, the S&P 500 index fell 0.39%, while the Nasdaq Composite index fell 0.50%.
General Electric reported that its revenue and profits increased in the fourth quarter of last year, in line with many expectations, while financial institution Morgan Stanley beat expectations as well.
However, UPS disappointed markets with its earnings and outlook, while Intel also released earnings that missed expectations.
Offsetting mixed earnings, data released earlier showed that U.S. housing starts rose dropped 9.8% and came in at 999,000 units in December from an upwardly revised 1.107 million units in November.
Markets were expecting to see 990,000 in new housing starts, and the better-than-expected figure boosted spirits by suggesting fundamental improvements are taking place in the U.S. housing sector and broader economy as a whole.
Separately, official data showed that U.S. building permits declined 3% to 986,000 million units in December from 1.017 million units the previous month. Analysts had expected building permits to slip to 1.015 million units last month, though the dollar applauded housing starts.
Elsewhere, the preliminary Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan consumer sentiment index fell to 80.4 in January from 82.5 in December, defying expectations for a rise to 83.5, which watered down stock prices.
Also in the U.S., the Federal Reserve reported that U.S. industrial production rose 0.3% in December, a fifth consecutive monthly increase and in line with market expectations, which offset the sluggish consumer sentiment repor.
Leading Dow Jones Industrial Average performers included Visa, up 4.60%, General Electric, up 3.78%, and Nike, up 0.80%.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average’s worst performers included Intel, down 2.62%, General Electric, down 2.08%, and Nike, down 1.81%.
European indices, meanwhile, finished higher.
After the close of European trade, the EURO STOXX 50 rose 0.09%, France’s CAC 40 rose 0.19%, while Germany’s DAX 30 rose 0.26%. Meanwhile, in the U.K. the FTSE 100 finished up 0.20%.
The greenback gained against most major currencies on Friday fter U.S. housing starts came in better than markets were expecting and kept views firm that U.S. economy is on the mend despite hiccups here and there and is in less need of monetary support.
U.S. trading on Friday, EUR/USD was down 0.66% at 1.3530.
Data released earlier showed that U.S. housing starts rose dropped 9.8% and came in at 999,000 units in December from an upwardly revised 1.107 million units in November.
Housing data and improving U.S. industrial production firmed expectations for the U.S. central bank to continue winding down its USD75 billion in monthly bond purchases this year.
Fed asset purchases weaken the dollar by driving down long-term interest rates, sending investors to asset classes such as stocks.
The greenback was down against the pound, with GBP/USD up 0.37% at 1.6415.
The pound firmed after official data revealed that U.K. retail sales increased by 2.6% in December, far more than the expected 0.4% rise. Retail sales in November were revised down to a 0.1% rise from a previously estimated 0.3% gain.
The dollar index, which tracks the performance of the greenback versus a basket of six other major currencies, was up 0.44% at 81.38.
Bargain hunters sent gold prices rising on Friday though a better-than-expected U.S. housing report made gains short lived by cementing views the Federal Reserve remains on course to wind down stimulus programs that have bolstered the yellow metal for over a year.
On the Comex division of the New York Mercantile Exchange, gold futures for February delivery traded at USD1,252.30 a troy ounce during U.S. trading, up 0.98%, up from a session low of USD1,237.40 and off a high of 1,254.60.
The February contract settled up 0.15% at USD1,240.20 on Thursday.
Futures were likely to find support at USD1,233.90 a troy ounce, Wednesday’s low, and resistance at USD1,254.70, Tuesday’s high.
Gold prices have fallen in recent sessions amid sentiments the Federal Reserve will make fresh cuts to its USD75 billion in monthly bond purchases this year as the economy improves.
The Fed’s bond-purchasing program, in effect since September of 2012, suppresses long-term interest rates to spur recovery, weakening the dollar in the process and making gold an attractive hedge.
Data bolstered the dollar earlier though gold posted gains of its own, mainly on views by some that the commodity is oversold.
Improving housing data and continuing higher industrial production data likely made gold’s gains short-lived.
Meanwhile, silver for March delivery was up 1.29% and trading at USD20.313 a troy ounce, while copper futures for March delivery were down 0.01% and trading at USD3.342 a pound.
Better-than-expected data on U.S. housing starts sent oil prices gaining on Friday after investors viewed the numbers as another indication of a more robust U.S. economy, one that will demand more fuel and energy going forward.
Housing and industrial production adata supported oil prices, while a decline in the preliminary Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan consumer sentiment index watered down oil’s gains slightly.
Elsewhere, on the ICE Futures Exchange in London, Brent oil futures for March delivery were up 0.91% and trading at USD106.72 a barrel, while the spread between the Brent and U.S. crude contracts stood at USD12.07 a barrel.
Natural gas futures fell on Friday after investors locked gains from recent blasts of cold weather and sold the commodity for profits.
On the New York Mercantile Exchange, natural gas futures for delivery in February traded at USD4.307 per million British thermal units during U.S. trading, down 1.72%. The commodity hit session high of USD4.384 and a low of USD4.298.
The February contract settled up 1.32% on Thursday to end at USD4.382 per million British thermal units. Natural gas futures were likely to find support at USD4.119 per million British thermal units, Monday’s low, and resistance at USD4.495, Thursday’s high.
Repeated blasts of cold air have sent gas prices gaining in recent sessions as well as weather forecasts calling for reinforcing shots of wintry weather to sweep across the country through the end of January and hike demand for the commodity at the nation’s thermal power plants.
By Friday, investors viewed below-normal temperatures as already priced into trading strategies and sold natural gas futures for profits.
Weekly inventory data fueled profit taking as well.
While a recent freeze took its toll on inventories, markets were hoping for a bigger draw.
The U.S. Energy Information Administration said in its weekly report that natural gas storage in the U.S. in the week ended January 10 fell by 287 billion cubic feet, the largest drop on record though still below expectations for a decline of 301 billion cubic feet.
The five-year average change for the week is a decline of 159 billion cubic feet. The previous record drop was a decrease of 285 billion cubic feet in the seven days ended December 13, according to Energy Information Administration data.
Total U.S. natural gas storage stood at 2.530 trillion cubic feet. Stocks were 659 billion cubic feet less than last year at this time and 443 billion cubic feet below the five-year average of 2.973 trillion cubic feet for this time of year.
The report showed that in the East Region, stocks were 292 billion cubic feet below the five-year average, following net withdrawals of 149 billion cubic feet.
Stocks in the Producing Region were 104 billion cubic feet below the five-year average of 1.016 billion cubic feet after a net withdrawal of 107 billion cubic feet.