A bumpy day leaves stocks mostly lower; bond yields ease

AP – A choppy day on Wall Street ended with stocks mostly lower on Friday, helping push the S&P 500 to its second straight weekly loss.

Investors continued to watch the bond market, where Treasury yields eased lower, as well as Washington, where Congress is expected to vote on United States (US) President Joe Biden’s stimulus package.

Losses in banks and health care stocks helped drag the S&P 500 down 0.5 per cent, erasing an early gain.

Falling oil prices weighed on energy stocks.

Technology and communication services companies, which bore the brunt of the selling a day before, recovered slightly, which helped the tech-heavy Nasdaq composite manage a 0.6-per-cent gain.

Bond yields eased off of their multi-week climb. The yield on the 10-year US Treasury fell to 1.42 per cent from 1.51 per cent late Thursday.

Traders work on the floor at the New York Stock Exchange. PHOTO: AP

“We still think the uptrend in (stocks) is very much intact and that they’ll outperform bonds in the coming year,” said Senior Global Market Strategist at Wells Fargo Investment Institute Sameer Samana.

The S&P 500 index fell 18.19 points to 3,811.15. Despite a two-week slide, the index managed a 2.6 per cent gain for February after a 1.1-per-cent loss in January.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped 469.64 points, or 1.5 per cent to 30,932.37. The Nasdaq gained 72.91 points to 13,192.34. The index still posted its biggest weekly loss since October. The Russell 2000 index of smaller companies eked out a small gain, adding 0.88 points, or less than 0.1 per cent to 2,201.05.

The indexes remain close to the all-time highs they set earlier this month.

A sell-off on Wall Street on Thursday picked up speed when the yield on the 10-year US Treasury note rose above 1.5 per cent a level not seen in more than a year and far above the 0.92 per cent it was trading at only two months ago. That move raised the alarm that yields, and the interest rates they influence, will move higher from here.

The recent rise in bond yields reflects growing confidence that the economy is on the path to recovery, but also expectations that inflation is headed higher, which might prompt central banks eventually to raise interest rates to cool price increases. Rising yields can make stocks look less attractive relative to bonds, which is why every tick up in yields has corresponded with a tick down in stock prices.

“Investors should look at this as an affirmation that the recovery is taking hold,” said Global Market Strategist at Invesco Brian Levitt.

Samana said he still expects interest rates will continue to rise, but at a slower pace.