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VOL. 42 | NO. 17 | Friday, April 27, 2018

Stocks finish mixed as Amazon leads retail rally; Exxon dips

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NEW YORK (AP) — U.S. stocks finished with a split decision Friday after a wobbly day of trading. Amazon led a rally among retailers, but Exxon Mobil dragged energy companies lower to end an uneven week on Wall Street.

So far the first quarter has been a strong one for U.S. companies, but it hasn't thrilled investors. On Friday Amazon, Microsoft and Expedia all climbed after reporting earnings, but Exxon, Charter Communications and Starbucks all slumped. High-dividend companies like utilities rose as bond yields slipped, but defense contractors fell. Asian stocks rose following the landmark summit of the leaders from North and South Korea.

This week investors worried that rising raw materials costs, as well as higher interest rates and wages, could eat into corporate profits. Meanwhile they were pleased with strong results from Facebook, Amazon, Microsoft and others. The S&P 500 index finished the week almost exactly where it started.

Karyn Cavanaugh, senior market strategist for Voya Investment Strategies, said investors haven't regained their confidence since February's market plunge. But in her view, the economy continues to do well and there are few signs that inflation or wages are about to rocket higher, an outcome that could dent corporate profits.

"There's reason to think things are very, very good, but not overheating. That's a great environment for earnings," she said. "The market is getting a little bit spoiled."

The S&P 500 index gained 2.97 points, or 0.1 percent, to 2,669.91. The Dow Jones industrial average lost 11.15 points, or less than 0.1 percent, to 24,311.19. The Nasdaq composite rose 1.12 points to 7,119.80. The Russell 2000 index of smaller-company stocks lost 1.66 points, or 0.1 percent, to 1,556.24. Most of the stocks on the New York Stock Exchange finished higher.

Amazon said its first-quarter profit more than doubled as consumers shopped more online and revenue from its cloud computing business continued to rise. The results were far stronger than Wall Street expected and the stock jumped 3.6 percent to $1,572.62, adding to Thursday's 4 percent gain. Amazon also said it will hike the price of an annual Prime membership to $119 from $99 in the U.S.

Amazon recovered the last of its losses from late March and early April. It slumped after President Donald Trump repeatedly criticized the company over issues including sales tax collection and its contracts with the U.S. Postal Service.

The U.S. economy grew 2.3 percent in the first quarter, better than experts had forecast. While consumer spending turned in the weakest performance in nearly five years, experts think it will pick up later in the year thanks to continued low unemployment and Republican-backed tax cuts.

Bond prices rose again. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note fell to 2.96 percent from 2.98 percent Thursday. It hit four-year highs recently and peaked at 3.03 percent earlier this week. High-yield stocks like household goods makers and utilities moved up.

Even with help from climbing oil prices Exxon Mobil's results still fell short of estimates and its stock dropped 3.8 percent to $77.79. Cable company Charter Communications tumbled 11.7 percent to $263.33. Jefferies & Co. analyst Scott Goldman said the company's residential video and high speed data subscriber totals were both weaker than he expected.

Technology companies also gave up an early gain. Intel rose 5 percent in the morning but later dipped 0.6 percent to $52.73. After a big rally in the morning, Microsoft rose 1.7 percent to $95.82.

The leaders of North and South Korea vowed Friday to seek a nuclear-free peninsula and work toward a formal end to the Korean War this year, although they offered few specifics about how they would achieve those goals. As part of the summit, Kim Jong Un became the first North Korean leader to visit South Korea since 1953, when the two sides signed an armistice that left them still technically at war. Later Kim and South Korean President Moon Jae-in briefly stepped into North Korea together.

Seoul's Kospi was 0.7 percent higher and Tokyo's Nikkei 225 added 0.7 percent. Hong Kong's Hang Seng advanced 0.9 percent.

In Britain, shares got a lift after soft growth data reined in expectations that the Bank of England will raise interest rates again next month. The pound fell sharply, to $1.3785 from $1.3924. That was good news for British exporters, as it makes their goods less expensive, and London's FTSE jumped 1.1 percent. The German DAX rose 0.6 percent and France's CAC 40 added 0.5 percent.

Benchmark U.S. crude fell 0.1 percent to $68.10 a barrel in New York while Brent crude, used to price international oils, fell 0.1 percent to $74.64 per barrel in London.

Wholesale gasoline rose 0.6 percent to $2.13 a gallon. Heating oil lost 0.4 percent to $2.15 a gallon. Natural gas lost 2.4 percent to $2.77 per 1,000 cubic feet.

Gold rose 0.4 percent to $1,323.40 an ounce. Silver fell 0.5 percent to $16.41 an ounce. Copper dropped 2.2 percent to $3.05 a pound.

The dollar slipped to 109.02 yen from 109.36 yen. The euro rose to $1.2121 from $1.2106.

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AP Markets Writer Marley Jay can be reached at http://twitter.com/MarleyJayAP . His work can be found at https://apnews.com/search/marley%20jay