Main equity benchmarks on track for weekly gains
U.S. stocks recovered from lows of the day Friday afternoon, but were struggling to trade in positive territory, as President Donald Trump's said a much-awaited tax-reform plan was imminent. However, anxieties centered on the first round of France's closely watched presidential election offset optimism around the promises of potentially market-boosting tax cuts.
Trump announced he'd be releasing a "massive tax cut" package (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/trump-says-he-plans-to-release-massive-tax-cut-proposal-next-week-2017-04-21) in the coming week, he told the Associated Press in a Friday interview.
The S&P 500 index was down 3 points, or 0.1%, at 2,352, after an earlier 11-point deficit. Eight of the 11 main sectors were trading lower. Telecoms and financial shares were leading losses, down 1.5% and 0.5%, respectively.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average advanced 12 points, or less than 0.1%, to 20,5992, following a 73-point deficit earlier, with shares of General Electric Co. (GE) and Verizon Communications Inc. (VZ) both down more than 2%. Microsoft Corp.(MSFT) and United Technologies Corp. (UTX) led advancers.
The Nasdaq Composite Index retreated from its record closing level and was off 4 points, or 0.1%, at 5,912, after having dipped below the 5,900 mark earlier.
"What's impressive ahead of the [French] election is we've been able to hold yesterday's gains so far," said Mark Kepner, managing director of sales and trading at Themis Trading.
Lack of progress in passing and implementing tax reforms have put a damper on the monthslong rally that followed the presidential elections in November.
But markets continue to react to comments on policy changes by the Trump administration cabinet members, such as Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and White House chief economic adviser Gary Cohn.
Mnuchin on Thursday said President Trump's tax overhaul will be unveiled in the near future, bolstering sentiment. Benchmarks indexes finished up nearly 1% on Thursday (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/dow-set-to-claw-its-way-back-from-triple-digit-loss-as-oil-prices-rebound-2017-04-20)
"While those aren't firm dates, no concrete definite answers, just the speculation of things getting done again, which took a back seat after the health-care bill defeat, is enough to get the market to react," said Kepner.
"A move by Trump to challenge steel imports and positive tax reform rhetoric from Treasury Secretary Mnuchin revived hopes for the fabled Trump 'reflation trade,'" said analysts at Accendo Markets, in a note.
"Markets have also taken in their stride another terror attack in the French capital just days before Sunday's first round of the presidential election," market strategists added.
See:5 charts show what the French presidential election means for financial markets (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/5-charts-show-what-the-french-presidential-election-means-for-financial-markets-2017-04-21)
Late Thursday, a gunman opened fire (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/gunman-slain-after-killing-paris-police-officer-trump-suggests-terrorism-2017-04-20) on the Champs-Élysées boulevard in Paris, killing a police officer and wounding two others. European stocks (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/french-stocks-slide-after-paris-attack-fuels-election-uncertainty-2017-04-21) were mixed with the Stoxx Europe 600 finishing fractionally higher and France's CAC 40 index closing down 0.4%.
"The shooting on the Champs-Élysées boulevard in Paris on Thursday has been viewed as enhancing Le Pen's chances to win in the presidential elections and a lot of people are concerned about such an outcome," said Diane Jaffee, senior portfolio manager at TCW.
The euro was trading at $1.0688, down from $1.0718 late Thursday in New York.
The attack could give a late-campaign surge in support for anti-immigration, far-right candidate Marine Le Pen in the tight presidential race, analysts said. Le Pen has vowed to hold a referendum on France's membership of the European Union, fueling fears of a breakup of the bloc. One of her three key rivals, far-left euroskeptic Jean Luc Mélenchon, has also pledged to renegotiate EU treaties and hold a referendum.
Read:Here's how France's hotly contested election could spark market turmoil (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/heres-how-frances-hotly-contested-election-could-spark-market-turmoil-2017-04-19)
(http://www.marketwatch.com/story/heres-how-frances-hotly-contested-election-could-spark-market-turmoil-2017-04-19)Economic news: Wrapping up the data calendar for the week, the Markit flash purchasing managers index for April dropped to 52.7 from 53.2. Sales of previously-owned homes rose in March to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.71 million, a 4.4% monthly rise, the National Association of Realtors reported Friday--the strongest pace since February 2007 (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/existing-home-sales-hit-a-10-year-high-in-march-as-homes-fly-off-the-market-2017-04-21).
In Federal Reserve news, Minneapolis Fed President Neel Kashkari warned that curbing immigration to the U.S. will result in slower economic growth, while Fed Vice Chairman Stanley Fischer said weak economic growth in the first quarter is likely temporary (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/feds-fischer-says-first-quarter-doldrums-only-temporary-and-rate-hikes-can-proceed-2017-04-21) and that rate increases should be able to proceed as planned.
Earnings season: The results season continued at full speed on Friday with General Electric Co.(GE) reporting earnings ahead of expectations (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/general-electric-profit-rises-beat-expectations-2017-04-21). But shares dropped 2.2%.
Honeywell International Inc.(HON) also beat forecasts (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/honeywell-tops-profit-and-sales-estimates-2017-04-21), sending the shares up 2.6%.
Schlumberger Ltd.(SLB), on the other hand, fell 2.5%, after revenue missed Wall Street estimates (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/schlumbergers-stock-slips-as-revenue-rises-but-comes-up-short-of-expectations-2017-04-21).
After the market closed on Thursday, Visa Inc.(V) reported better-than-expected revenue (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/visa-results-better-than-expected-but-profit-falls-2017-04-20), sending shares 0.5% higher.
Shares of Mattel Inc.(MAT) dropped nearly 12% after the toy maker's quarterly results out late Thursday fell short of Wall Street estimates (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/mattel-shares-drop-after-results-fall-short-of-street-view-2017-04-20).
Other markets: Stocks in Asia closed mainly higher (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/led-by-nikkei-asian-markets-build-on-overnight-gains-2017-04-20), boosted by the higher close in the U.S. on Thursday.
Oil prices (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/oil-prices-steady-as-investors-watch-for-opec-signals-2017-04-21) fell 2.4% while gold prices (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/gold-logs-a-gain-for-the-session-erases-its-loss-for-the-week-2017-04-21) settled up 0.4% at $1,289.10 an ounce. The dollar inched higher against other major currencies, with the ICE Dollar Index up 0.2%. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note was virtually flat at 2.229%.
--Sara Sjolin in London contributed to this article.
(END) Dow Jones Newswires
April 21, 2017 14:42 ET (18:42 GMT)