Stocks end choppy day mostly higher

San Francisco Chronicle Late Edition - - BUSINESS - By Alex Veiga and Damian J. Troise Alex Veiga and Damian J. Troise are Associated Press writ­ers.

Stock in­dexes fin­ished mostly higher Fri­day as Wall Street shook off an early slide, clos­ing out a solid week of gains for the mar­ket.

The S&P 500 in­dex inched up 0.2% af­ter hav­ing been down 0.5%. It ended the week with a 3.2% gain, largely due to a big rally on Mon­day that off­set all of the bench­mark in­dex’s losses from ear­lier in the month.

Strength in tech­nol­ogy, com­mu­ni­ca­tions and real es­tate stocks helped re­verse much of the mar­ket’s early slide. En­ergy stocks fell the most as crude oil prices closed lower af­ter six straight gains. Bond yields were mixed. Trad­ing was choppy for much of the day ahead of the long hol­i­day week­end. Mar­kets in the U.S. will be closed Mon­day for Me­mo­rial Day.

Fresh hopes for an eco­nomic re­cov­ery in the sec­ond half of the year and op­ti­mism about a po­ten­tial vac­cine for COVID­19 helped spur stocks higher for much of the week. In­vestors are bet­ting that the econ­omy and cor­po­rate prof­its will be­gin to re­cover from the coron­avirus pan­demic as the U.S. and coun­tries around the world slowly open up again.

Traders re­main wary, how­ever, that the re­open­ing of busi­nesses could lead to an­other wave of in­fec­tions, po­ten­tially hob­bling ef­forts to get the na­tion’s bat­tered econ­omy grow­ing again.

“We’re in a bit of a hold right now look­ing for the next cat­a­lyst,” said Brian Le­vitt, global mar­ket strate­gist at In­vesco. “There’s still an aw­ful lot of uncer­tainty we have to work though.”

The S&P 500 rose 6.94 points to 2,955.45. The in­dex is still down 12.7% from its all­time high in Fe­bru­ary. The Dow Jones in­dus­trial av­er­age slipped 8.96 points, or less than 0.1%, to 24,465.16. The Nas­daq com­pos­ite added 39.71 points, or 0.4%, to 9,324.59.

De­spite the un­even fin­ish, the three ma­jor stock in­dexes each ended the week more than 3% higher. Those gains were blown away by the rally in small com­pany stocks, which drove the Rus­sell 2000 in­dex 7.8% higher for the week, a bullish sig­nal sug­gest­ing that in­vestors ex­pect that the econ­omy is on the path to re­cov­ery. On Fri­day, the Rus­sell 2000 gained 7.97 points, or 0.6%, to 1,355.53.

Fears of a re­ces­sion sent the S&P 500 into a skid of more than 30% from its high in Fe­bru­ary. Hopes for a rel­a­tively quick re­bound and un­prece­dented moves by the Fed­eral Re­serve and Congress to stem the eco­nomic pain drove a turn­around for stocks in April and have bol­stered op­ti­mism.

In­vestors are now keenly fo­cused on the process of re­open­ing the U.S. econ­omy, which is likely to con­tinue ac­cel­er­at­ing as the sum­mer pro­gresses.

“The mar­kets are ex­pect­ing a rea­son­able re­sump­tion of eco­nomic ac­tiv­ity, a man­age­able in­crease in coron­avirus cases and a man­age­able sit­u­a­tion when it comes to our health care sys­tem,” said Mike Zig­mont, head of trad­ing and re­search at Har­vest Vo­latil­ity Man­age­ment. “If we have a sec­ond freez­ing of the econ­omy, then this mar­ket is grossly over­val­ued and the only peo­ple that are right now are the bears.”

Oil prices fell, snap­ping a six­day rise. Bench­mark U.S. crude oil fell 2% to set­tle at $33.25 per bar­rel. Brent crude oil, the in­ter­na­tional stan­dard, fell 2.6% to set­tle at $35.13 per bar­rel.

The yield on the 10­year Trea­sury note fell to 0.66% from 0.67% late Thurs­day.

The choppy trad­ing on Wall Street fol­lowed a down­beat day in Asia. Hong Kong’s main in­dex dropped 5.6% af­ter China made more moves to limit po­lit­i­cal op­po­si­tion in the for­mer Bri­tish colony. Bei­jing also aban­doned its long­stand­ing prac­tice of set­ting eco­nomic growth tar­gets. Euro­pean mar­kets shook off some early weak­ness and ended mixed.

Bei­jing’s move to take over long­stalled ef­forts to en­act na­tional se­cu­rity leg­is­la­tion in semi­au­ton­o­mous Hong Kong spooked in­vestors in Asian mar­kets who have en­dured months of pro­democ­racy demon­stra­tions last year that at times de­scended into vi­o­lence be­tween po­lice and pro­test­ers.

The pro­posed bill is aimed at for­bid­ding se­ces­sion­ist and sub­ver­sive ac­tiv­ity, as well as for­eign in­ter­fer­ence and ter­ror­ism. The move has drawn strong re­bukes from the U.S. govern­ment and rights groups.

An­thony Wal­lace / AFP / Getty Im­ages

A dis­play in Hong Kong shows the Hang Seng In­dex down by 5.56% af­ter China’s pro­posed se­cu­rity law spooked in­vestors.

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