U.S. stocks flat as consumer stocks gain, energy dips

Big 5

U.S. stocks swung Monday between small gains and losses as consumer shares rose after encouraging data, offsetting the impact of a dip in crude oil prices on the energy sector.

Data showed consumer spending rose marginally in February and overall inflation retreated – factors that will feed into the U.S. Federal Reserve’s decision on interest rates in 2016.

Some Fed officials, encouraged by a raft of positive data in the past few weeks, have supported the case for more than one rate hike this year even as central banks around the world consider more stimulus measures.

However, data released on Monday suggested the Fed could remain cautious, adding to the uncertainty around the its next rate hike.

Investors will pay close attention to Fed Chair Janet Yellen’s speech in New York on Tuesday for clues on when the central bank will raise rates.

“I think today’s action will be in anticipation of what Yellen will say tomorrow and if she gives an indication of what they will do in April when they meet,” said Mohanned Aama, managing director of Beam Capital Management in New York.

“Until we hear something noteworthy from the Fed, I don’t think we’re going to see any major trading,” Aama added.

At 12:52 p.m. ET, the Dow Jones industrial average .DJI was up 46.78 points, or 0.27 percent, at 17,562.51, the S&P 500 .SPX was up 4.14 points, or 0.2 percent, at 2,040.08 and the Nasdaq Composite .IXIC was up 3.10 points, or 0.06 percent, at 4,776.61.

Seven of the 10 major S&P sectors were higher. The consumer discretionary sector .SPLRCD was up 0.77 percent, while energy .SPNY was off 0.49 percent.

Crude prices were down about 1 percent, with U.S. crude below $40 a barrel. [O/R]

Noble Energy’s (NBL.N) shares were down 7.2 percent at $30.03 after the company warned of a possible delay in the development of a key natural gas field in Israel.

Pandora (P.N) was down 9.9 percent at $9.85 after the music streaming company said its founder Tim Westergren was coming back as chief executive.

Cal-Maine Foods (CALM.O) was up 9.1 percent at $54.70 after reporting higher-than-expected quarterly profit.

Advancing issues outnumbered decliners on the NYSE by 1,704 to 1,243. On the Nasdaq, 1,390 issues rose and 1,309 fell.

The S&P 500 index showed 25 new 52-week highs and one new low, while the Nasdaq recorded 25 new highs and 34 new lows.

Source: Reuters