With no obvious catalyst pushing them either way, indexes spent most of the day wavering between slight gains and losses. Investors are waiting for clues from a Federal Reserve meeting next Wednesday as to when it may start increasing interest rates. The prospect of higher rates and a surge in the dollar have been weighing on markets since indexes hit record highs last week.
Stocks rose at the opening of trading and, until about an hour before the close, were holding onto their gains. The losses at the end were tiny, and energy and financial companies managed to rally.
The Dow Jones industrial average lost 27.55 points, or 0.2 percent, to close at 17,635.39. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index lost 3.92 points, or 0.2 percent, to 2,040.24. Both indexes are down about 1 percent in 2015.
The Nasdaq composite fell 9.85 points, or 0.2 percent, to 4,849.94. The Nasdaq is up 2.4 percent this year.
The odds of the Fed raising rates appeared to rise Friday after the U.S. government reported a burst in hiring last month. A rate increase would be the first in nine years.
A U.S. interest rate rise would come as Japan and Europe are struggling to grow and as China’s expansion slows. On Wednesday, China’s official Xinhua news agency reported that output in the world’s second-biggest economy rose 6.8 percent in the first two months of the year, less than expected. China is expected to slow further after growing 7.4 percent last year, the slowest rate in nearly a quarter-century.
As the Fed is poised to raise rates, the European Central Bank is trying to lower them. The divergent policies are hammering the euro and sending the dollar higher. On Wednesday, the euro fell to $1.0550, its lowest level since April 2003.
Among stocks making big moves:
— Apple fell $2.27, or 1.8 percent, to $122.24 after its iTunes and app stores suffered a rare outage, frustrating millions of users around the world. Earlier in the week, Apple announced new details about its Apple Watch and MacBook products.
— Southwest Airlines rose 90 cents, or 2 percent, to $43.84. The airline said its flights were more crowded and a key revenue figure increased in February compared with a year earlier.
The price of U.S. oil fell slightly after the Energy Department reported an increase in inventories that was only slightly larger than analysts had expected. Benchmark U.S. crude fell 12 cents to close at $48.17 a barrel in New York. Brent crude, a benchmark for international oils used by many U.S. refineries, rose $1.15 to close at $57.54 a barrel in London.
In other futures trading on the NYMEX:
- Wholesale gasoline rose 0.8 cent to close at $1.826 a gallon.
- Heating oil rose 0.6 cent to close at $1.820 a gallon.
- Natural gas rose 9.2 cents to close at $2.824 per 1,000 cubic feet.
In the bond market, U.S. government bond prices rose, pushing yields lower. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note fell to 2.11 percent from 2.13 percent on Tuesday.
Precious and industrial metals futures closed lower. Gold fell $9.50 to $1,150.60 an ounce, silver fell 27 cents to $15.37 an ounce and copper fell two cents to $2.61 a pound.