U.S. stocks opened lower and have switched between small gains and losses Friday in a choppy trading session, capping a tumultuous week for equities that has been marked by thin summertime volumes, turmoil abroad, and hand-wringing over the timing of the Federal Reserve’s plans to raise interest rates.
Friday’s string of upbeat economic reports paint the U.S. economy in a strong, albeit not spectacular, light, which has left some investors struggling to figure out the direction for stocks.
Investors initially shrugged off a muted reading on U.S. producer prices, as well as a solid industrial production report.
But stocks have since gained some upward thrust.
On the corporate front, J.C. Penney Co. shares jumped after the retailer posted a smaller-than-expected loss.
Adam Sarhan, chief executive officer of investment management firm Sarhan Capital, said he sees bullish signs in the ability of the main U.S. indexes to fight through bad news, including this week’s devaluation of the Chinese yuan.
“The fact that the market refuses to fall in any meaningful way is a bullish sign” said Sarhan.
The S&P 500 SPX, +0.16% was about 2 points, or 0.1%, higher at 2,081, with six out of 10 sectors showing modest gains. Health care, off 0.4%, was the biggest drag on the broad-market index.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average DJIA, +0.24% gained 7 points, or less than 0.1%, to 17,416, supported by gains in DuPont & Co. DD, +1.40% which was leading Dow components, up 1.7%. J.P. Morgan analysts upgraded the stock.
Meanwhile, the Nasdaq Composite Index COMP, -0.05% was fighting to gain momentum, down 15 points, or 0.3%, at 5,018.
The S&P 500 is on track to gain 0.5% for the week, while the Dow is eyeing a 0.4% weekly gain, while the Nasdaq is on track for a 0.1% loss.
Earlier in the week, China’s devaluation of its currency sparked worries about the health of the global economy, hammering stocks and other riskier assets, while safety plays like gold gained. But U.S. stocks bounced back somewhat as the week progressed, with some strategists arguing that it is an instance of solid fundamentals once again overcoming an outside shock.
Friday’s key economic reports: A reading on producer prices showed U.S. producer prices moderated in July, rising a seasonally adjusted 0.2% after a 0.4% gain in June, the Labor Department said Friday. The July PPI reading is higher than the 0.1% forecast by economist polled by MarketWatch.
Industrial production climbed 0.6% in July, more than the 0.4% that had been expected.
The University of Michigan’s consumer sentiment index edged slightly lower to a reading of 92.9 in August from 93.1 in July.
Other markets: European stocks SXXP, -0.12% traded lower Friday after initially rising as Greece approved its third bailout package. Asian markets ADOW, +0.03% and the yuan stabilized after a rocky week, while hard-hit oil CLU5, +0.47% rose after dropping in early trading. Gold GCZ5, -0.28% gained, and the dollar DXY, +0.26% slipped.
Read: Why $40 oil is here to stay
Movers & Shakers: Shares in J.C. Penney Co. JCP, +6.20% advanced after the department store chain reported a narrower-than-expected loss for the second quarter and beat sales estimates.
Tesla Motors Inc. TSLA, +0.95% rose after pricing an increased share offering at a tiny discount, and Nordstrom Inc. JWN, +5.46% stepped higher after delivering stronger-than-expected profit late Thursday.
King Digital Entertainment PLC KING, -9.93% slumped after the game developer late Thursday reported a sharp slowdown in sales and bookings.
El Pollo Loco Holdings Inc. LOCO, -18.30% also tumbled after the fast-food chain late Thursday reported weaker-than-expected revenue for the second quarter.
Read more: Tesla, J.C. Penney rise; King Digital, El Pollo Loco drop