Wall Street closing highs buck trend as most equities flat

Fri May 30, 2014 5:24pm EDT
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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.   Continued...

A man walks past the London Stock Exchange in the City of London October 11, 2013. REUTERS/Stefan Wermuth