May 19, 2024

Stocks and Bonds: Wall Street Ends Flat, After a Lift From JPMorgan

In recent days, the market has struggled amid weaker commodity prices, Middle East turmoil and bleak news from Japan.

But on Wednesday, the indexes started the day higher after JPMorgan Chase reported that its quarterly profit surged 67 percent even as problems continued in its mortgage lending business.

Also, the Commerce Department said that retail sales in March increased 0.4 percent, but most of the increase could be attributed to higher gas prices.

Still, economists were cautious about the retail sales figures. When adjusted for inflation, the numbers were barely rising and could even be decelerating, Steven Ricchiuto, chief economist for Mizuho Securities USA, wrote in a research note.

Analysts are also concerned that the recent spike in energy prices, which has translated into an average $3.80 for a gallon of regular gasoline, will mean that consumers have little left for other spending.

The jump in oil prices continued as the May contract for crude oil rose 86 cents, to settle at $107.11 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

“Retail numbers are pretty telling right now,” said William B. Smith, the president of Smith Asset Management. “I think it is something you have to watch carefully to see what is going to happen with the effect of energy prices on consumers. It leads to other questions: where are we in the recovery?”

The Dow Jones industrial average gained 7.41 points, or 0.06 percent, to 12,270.99, and the Standard Poor’s 500-stock index rose 0.25 of a point, to 1,314.41. The Nasdaq composite index increased 16.73 points, or 0.61 percent, to 2,761.52.

The financial sector closed lower. Shares of JPMorgan fell 39 cents, or 0.84 percent, to $46.25. Goldman Sachs shed 25 cents, or 0.16 percent, to $160.17. Citigroup fell 5 cents,. or 1.10 percent, to $4.50, and Bank of America lost 20 cents, or 1.48 percent, to $13.27. Wells Fargo was down 72 cents, or 2.29 percent, to $30.68.

Separately, the Federal Reserve said in a monthly report that the economy generally continued to improve from the beginning of March to April 4, saying consumers spending picked up modestly.

“The whole market has started to get the shakes about how strong economic growth is truly going to be,” said Bruce McCain, chief investment strategist for Key Private Bank. “Consumers still seem to be heavily pressed.”

The Treasury’s 10-year note rose 9/32, to 101 12/32. The yield fell to 3.46 percent, from 3.49 percent late Tuesday.

Eric Dash contributed reporting.

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