U.S. Stocks Mostly Subdued, Look Headed For Weak Close

After paring early gains, U.S. stocks are turning in a subdued performance Friday afternoon and look set to end the session on a weak note.

The market opened higher amid mild optimism about Russia-Ukraine talks making some progress. However, with reports about Russia widening its attack on Ukraine forcing investors to stay cautious, stocks pared early gains and are mostly down in negative territory.

Data showing a bigger than expected drop in U.S. consumer sentiment in March is also weighing on sentiment.

Among the major averages, the Dow is up 32.93 points or 0.1 percent at 33,207.00, after having climbed to a high of 33,515.61 in early trades.

The S&P 500, which rose to 4,291.01, is down 10.30 points or 0.24 percent at 4,249.22, while the Nasdaq is down 119.99 or 0.99 percent at 13,009.97, about 230 points off an early high of 13,239.35.

JP Morgan, 3M, Apple, Nike and United Health are down 1 to 2 percent. Tesla and Meta Farms are also notably lower. Intel, Microsoft, P&G and Walt Disney are down in negative territory with modest losses.

McDonalds is climbing up nearly 3 percent. Caterpillar, Dow, Travelers Companies, Cisco Systems, Merck and Amgen are gaining 1 to 2.5 percent.

On the economic front, consumer sentiment in the U.S. fell to its lowest level in over ten years in the month of March, according to a report released by the University of Michigan.

The report showed the consumer sentiment index slid to 59.7 in March from 62.8 in February. Economists had expected the index to dip to 61.4.

With the bigger than expected decrease, the consumer sentiment index dropped to its lowest level since hitting 59.5 in September 2011.

“Consumer Sentiment continued to decline due to falling inflation-adjusted incomes, recently accelerated by rising fuel prices as a result of the Russian invasion of Ukraine,” said Surveys of Consumers chief economist, Richard Curtin.

He added, “The year-ahead expected inflation rate rose to its highest level since 1981, and expected gas prices posted their largest monthly upward surge in decades.”

One-year inflation expectations jumped to 5.4 percent in March from 4.9 percent in February, while five-year inflation expectations held at 3.0 percent.

While the report showed index of current economic conditions edged down to 67.8 in March from 68.2 in February, the index of consumer expectations slumped to 54.4 from 59.4.

In overseas trading, stock markets across the Asia-Pacific region moved mostly lower during trading on Friday. Japan’s Nikkei 225 Index plunged by 2.1 percent, while Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index dove by 1.6 percent.

The major European markets showed significant moves to the upside on the day. The German DAX surged up 1.38 percent, the U.K.’s FTSE 100 advanced 0.8 percent and France’s CAC 40 moved up 0.85 percent. The pan European Stoxx 600 climbed 0.95 percent.

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