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US stock indexes mixed; bond yields and dollar climb again

U.S. stock indexes were mixed in a listless morning of trading Wednesday, while bond yields and the dollar moved higher again.

KEEPING SCORE: The Standard & Poor’s 500 index was up 2 points, or 0.1 percent, to 2,270 as of 10:35 a.m. Eastern time. The Dow Jones industrial average was down 3 points, or less than 0.1 percent, to 19,824. The Nasdaq composite rose 11 points, or 0.2 percent, to 5,550.

HO HO HUM: This past holiday shopping season was weaker than many retailers were expecting, and Target became the latest to cut its forecast for fourth-quarter sales and profits as a result. The discounter said that traffic levels at its stores were disappointing in November and December, and its stock fell $3.42, or 4.8 percent, to $67.52 following its announcement.

Target had one of the biggest losses in the S&P 500, while Kohl’s, Macy’s and other retailers weren’t far behind.

STRAPPED IN: Fastenal jumped $2.15, or 4.5 percent, to $50.41 for the biggest gain in the S&P 500 index. The seller of nuts, bolts and other equipment reported stronger fourth-quarter earnings growth than analysts expected.

FINANCIAL STRENGTH: Citigroup and Goldman Sachs became the latest banks to report stronger earnings for the fourth quarter than analysts expected. Like others, they benefited from strength in their trading operations following the tear higher for stocks since Donald Trump’s victory in the U.S. presidential election in November.

Financial stocks have been leading the way since Election Day on expectations for higher interest rates, stronger economic growth and less regulation.

YIELDS GAIN GROUND: Treasury yields rose, and the yield on the 10-year Treasury climbed to 2.37 percent from 2.33 percent late Tuesday. It regained most of its drop from the day prior, and it continues the steady march higher that bond yields have been on since Election Day. Expectations of higher inflation, along with faster economic growth, have driven the trend.

INFLATION GAUGE: Consumer prices last month were 2.1 percent higher than the same time a year earlier. Economists say the inflation rate is still relatively modest, but it’s a clear acceleration from the very low levels of the last four years.

The Federal Reserve has raised interest rates twice in the last two years, up from their record low of nearly zero. The central bank has said that it plans for a gradual rise in rates, but a big push higher in inflation could force its hand.

DOLLAR REBOUND: The dollar rose against many of its rivals, a day after it sank sharply against the British pound and others. The dollar rose to 113.40 Japanese yen from 112.66 late Tuesday. The British pound fell to $1.2318 from $1.2396, and the euro fell to $1.0693 from $1.0709.

MARKETS ABROAD: In Asia, Japan’s Nikkei 225 index rose 0.4 percent, and Hong Kong’s Hang Seng jumped 1.1 percent. South Korea’s Kospi index dipped by 0.1 percent.

In Europe, Germany’s DAX rose 0.3 percent, and the U.K. FTSE 100 rose 0.1 percent, while France’s CAC 40 fell 0.3 percent.

COMMODITIES: Benchmark U.S. crude oil fell $1.04, or 2 percent, to $51.44 per barrel. Brent crude, the international standard, fell $1.06, or 1.9 percent, to $54.41. Natural gas fell 5.9 cents to $3.346 per 1,000 cubic feet.

Gold edged up $1.90, or 0.2 percent, to $1,214.80 per ounce. Silver rose 17 cents to $17.32 per ounce, and copper was close to flat at $2.62 per pound.


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