Wall Street closing highs buck trend as most equities flat

By Herbert Lash
Reuters
Traders are pictured at their desks in front of the DAX board at the Frankfurt stock exchange
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Traders are pictured at their desks in front of the DAX board at the Frankfurt stock exchange May 29, 2014. REUTERS/Remote/Stringer

By Herbert Lash

LONDON (Reuters) - Global equity markets traded mostly flat on Friday but the Dow and S&P 500 set fresh closing highs, while the dollar eased on the likelihood the European Central Bank will deliver monetary stimulus next week.

Wall Street traded in a tight range as fears of overly high growth expectations offset mostly solid economic data. The S&P 500 set a record closing high for the fourth time in five sessions, but the Nasdaq closed slightly lower.

U.S. consumer spending fell for the first time in a year in April, but the decline, following two months of solid gains, did not change expectations for a sharp rebound in economic growth this quarter.

Other data on Friday showed U.S. consumer sentiment slipped in May as households worried about income. But a surge in factory activity in the Midwest confirmed growth was bouncing back after a weather-induced contraction in the first quarter.

"What we are seeing in the equity markets recently is the battle between this hope for higher earnings growth and the growing realization, on the back of a weak first quarter and very negative corporate guidance, that the growth expectations are overblown," said Brad McMillan, chief investment officer at Commonwealth Financial in Waltham, Massachusetts.

MSCI's all-country world equity index <.MIW00000PUS> slipped 0.04 percent, while the FTSEurofirst 300 <.FTEU3> index of leading European shares closed down 0.1 percent.

The Dow Jones industrial average <.DJI> closed up 18.43 points, or 0.11 percent, at 16,717.17. The S&P 500 <.SPX> gained 3.54 points, or 0.18 percent, to 1,923.57, and the Nasdaq Composite <.IXIC> dropped 5.329 points, or 0.13 percent, to 4,242.618.

The dollar eased against major currencies as traders tidied up books at month's end and warily awaited the ECB meeting next week. The U.S. dollar index <.DXY> of a half dozen currency pairs was last off 0.14 percent at 80.384.

The euro rose 0.24 percent to $1.3633.

Benchmark U.S. Treasuries yields retreated. The yield on 10-year U.S. Treasuries was last at 2.4750 with its price down 8/32.

German bond prices fell after Federal Reserve policymaker Esther George said late on Thursday that interest rates should be raised more steeply than many in the market now expect.

German 10-year yields rose 3 basis points to a day's high of 1.33 percent.

U.S. crude fell as traders took profits at the end of the month, but remained underpinned by supply worries and strong gasoline demand in the United States, the world's top oil consumer. Brent also slid.

Brent crude settled 56 cents lower at $109.41 a barrel. U.S. light crude oil settled down 87 cents at $102.71.

(Reporting by Herbert Lash; Additional reporting by Atul Prakash in London; Editing by Leslie Adler and Dan Grebler)