The U.S. equity markets closed Friday on a mixed note as investors juggled a battery of economic data that did not paint an overall positive picture.
At the close: DJIA: +0.06%, S&P 500: -0.10%, NASDAQ: -0.21%.
On the commodities front, WTI crude oil (NYSEARCA:USO) fell 1.41 percent to $95.94 per barrel, catalyzed by industrial production data reported earlier in the day. The Federal Reserve reported that its total industrial production index contracted by 0.1 percent in January, below expectations for 0.2 percent growth. Brent crude dropped 0.13 percent to $117.85 per barrel.
Gold (NYSEARCA:GLD) futures for April delivery, the most active contract, fell $26 to settle at $1,609.50 per ounce, while silver (NYSEARCA:SLV) futures for March dropped 50 cents to close at $29.85. It was gold’s lowest close in about six months. Both precious metals received heavy selling pressure as headlines hyped the disclosure that Soros Fund Management sold 720,400 shares of the SPDR Gold Trust during the fourth quarter. However, other funds are still keeping a large interest in gold… (Read more.)
Heavily influencing trading behavior on Friday was news that Wal-Mart (NYSE:WMT) is experiencing its weakest February sales start in seven years, a sign that economic headwinds and the expiration of the payroll tax holiday are taking a heavy toll on consumer spending behavior. The news, which circulated around 2:00 p.m., pulled Wal-Mart down 2.15 percent for the day, and helped catalyze a broader market sell-off.