Stocks closed mostly flat on Friday amid a strong dollar and as earnings season continued.
The Dow Jones industrial average closed about 15 points after momentarily trading higher, with IBM contributing the most losses, offsetting gains from McDonald’s and Microsoft. At session lows, the index fell 112.58 points.
The S&P 500 ended around breakeven after holding lower for most of the session, with consumer discretionary leading advancers. Consumer discretionary stocks were led by Time Warner, which rose 7.82 percent amid reports the firm has engaged in talks for a deal to be bought out by AT&T, which dragged the telecommunications sector lower by falling 3 percent.
The Nasdaq composite outperformed, rising 0.3 percent after Microsoft hit a new all-time high. For the week, the three major indexes notched slight gains.
Stocks have recently held in a tight range, with the S&P 500 having moved just 1.11 percent over the past three months.
S&P 500 3-month chartSource: FactSet
“Overall, you’re seeing some worries over the dollar, oil prices and the election, but I think these will be short-lived,” said Robert Pavlik, chief market strategist at Boston Private Wealth. “For the most part, the market is holding up pretty well.”
The U.S. dollar rose approximately 0.37 percent against a basket of currencies, hitting a seven-month high. The euro fell 0.42 percent to $1.0882 against the greenback, while the Chinese yuan hit its lowest level versus the U.S. currency dating back to 2010.
“The fact that the dollar is trending higher is a concern,” said Randy Frederick, vice president of trading and derivatives at Charles Schwab. “But I do expect the dollar moving higher to be a preemptive move ahead of the Fed’s December meeting, where they are likely to raise interest rates.”
Anna Rathbun, director of research for CBIZ Retirement Plan Services, said the U.S. currency’s rise on Friday is mainly due to remarks made by European Central Bank President Mario Draghi on Thursday.
“Draghi’s comments, which were basically no comment, suggest there will be no abrupt ending to [monetary policy stimulus],” she said. “There’s more uncertainty surrounding him. The biggest one is the fact that he’s running out of bonds to buy.”
There are no major economic data due Friday, but San Francisco Fed President John Williams said in a speech he thinks the U.S. economy is pretty much at full employment, adding the economy is in good shape and heading in the right direction. However, he also said the dollar and low energy prices were weighing on inflation.
Market expectations for a Fed rate hike in December in December were more than 60 percent, according to the CME Group’s FedWatch tool.
Fed Governor Daniel Tarullo delivered a speech midmorning ET in which he did not address monetary policy, but did say the U.S. central bank may introduce more measures to test big banks’ capital and liquidity.
In corporate news, Dow component General Electric reported mixed results Friday before the open, beating estimates on earnings but missing on revenues. The industrial giant also narrowed its 2016 earnings per share guidance.
“If you’re a trader, you’re trying to figure what’s certain and what’s uncertain. What’s certain is what companies are telling us. You talked about GE; they’re not giving investors such good commentary,” said CBIZ’s Rathbun.
“GE was not that good and the fact that they cut their forecast is not helping the market here,” said Peter Cardillo, chief market economist at First Standard Financial.
Meanwhile, Microsoft, another Dow component, posted better-than-expected results across the board on Thursday. “But, if you take Microsoft out of the equation, it’s been … mostly disappointing reactions to earnings,” said Adam Sarhan, CEO at Sarhan Capital. “Caution is king until we get a better reaction to earnings.”
According to data compiled by The Earnings Scout, 80 percent of the 116 S&P components that had reported as of Friday morning had beaten Wall Street’s earnings estimates, while 65 percent had beaten revenue estimates.
In oil markets, U.S. crude for December delivery rose 0.43 percent in choppy trade to settle at $50.8 per barrel. According to data from Baker Hughes, rig counts in the U.S. rose by 11 to 443, marking the 17th straight week without a cut.
In overseas markets, European equities close flat, with the pan-European Stoxx 600 index ending near breakeven.
The S&P 500 closed 0.18 points lower, or 0.01 percent, at 2,141.16, with telecommunications leading eight sectors lower and consumer discretionary the biggest riser.
The Nasdaq composite rose 15.57 points, or 0.3 percent, to end at 5,254.
Advancers were a step ahead of decliners at the New York Stock Exchange, with an exchange volume of 851.16 million and a composite volume of 3.338 billion at the close.
The CBOE Volatility Index (VIX), widely considered the best gauge of fear in the market, traded lower near 13.4.
Gold futures for December delivery rose 20 cents to settle at $1,267.70 per ounce.
High-frequency trading accounted for 52 percent of October’s daily trading volume of about 6.22 billion shares, according to TABB Group. During the peak levels of high-frequency trading in 2009, about 61 percent of 9.8 billion of average daily shares traded were executed by high-frequency traders.
—Reuters contributed to this report.