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US markets close flat as oil prices ooze downward

Markets cool as investor sentiment lacks direction

Stock market flattens out by end of Tuesday session
Stock market flattens out by end of Tuesday session

US stocks ended flat on Tuesday, giving back intraday record highs after US data upset the market and oil prices sagged when an official outlook suggested a greater supply glut ahead.

The S&P 500 index was flat at the close, at 2,181. The S&P 400 Mid-Cap index was similarly flat, finishing at 1,562. The S&P Small-Cap index was at 745. 

Figures from the US Labor Department, which incorporate historical GDP revisions for the first time, showed non-farm productivity contracted by 0.5% in the second quarter - a reversal of economists’ forecasts for 0.4% growth.

Meanwhile, the West Texas Intermediate, the US oil benchmark, dropped by 0.9% to $42.65, helping unravel record highs for both the S&P 500 and Nasdaq Composite.

Investors' enthusiasm over forthcoming OPEC supply talks in September waned after an official outlook report suggested output would not fall as fast as earlier predicted.

The US Energy Information Administration, in its monthly short-term energy outlook, said it expects US crude oil production to decline to 8.73mln barrels a day in 2016. In July, the agency had forecast 2016 production of 8.61mln barrels.

One worry for OPEC's effectiveness is that international oil supplies have gone up in part as Iran is selling more oil on the world market.

Monster Worldwide, Inc. (NYSE:MWW) stock was up more than 26% at the close, to $3.50. However, a securities litigation law firm has started an investigation into possible breaches of fiduciary duty and other violations of state law by the company’s Board of Directors, in regard to a proposed sale of the company.


Mid-session

US stocks were flat at the mid-session on Tuesday, giving back gains that had taken the S&P 500 to a fresh record high intraday, after US productivity numbers spooked investors.

The S&P 500 index was just slightly up by 0.1% at mid-session, at 2,182, following a bounce at the opening. Earlier, the S&P 500 rose by more than 0.3% to 2,187.66, to top Monday’s record of 2,185. Meanwhile, the S&P 400 Mid-Cap index was flat at 1,562. The S&P 600 index was also flat, at 745.

Earlier, the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite finally surpassed last July’s record after climbing more than 0.4% to 5,238.54 intraday.

Figures from the US Labor Department, which incorporate historical GDP revisions for the first time, show non-farm productivity contracted by 0.5% in the second quarter – an about-turn on economists’ forecasts for 0.4% growth.

The figures mark the third consecutive decline in quarterly US productivity – the worst run since at least 1980, according to data collected by Bloomberg.

Not helping the bourse, oil was down by 0.77% by mid-session, at $42.69 per barrel. OPEC announced on Monday that it would be holding informal talks in September, yet expectations are not high that this will help resolve a long-term oil glut. With oil reserves still high compared with global demand, energy stocks and materials companies have been on the wane for many months.

The Chemours Company (NYSE:CC) was up over 13% at $10.55. The company released second quarter results on Monday.


Preview

A quiet start is in the offing as the S&P 500 teeters on the brink of hitting a new closing high.

Having briefly hit a new intra-day high yesterday the S&P 500 backed off to close a couple of points lower at 2,181, and spread betting quotes currently indicate it will open on or around that level this morning.

The more narrowly-based Dow Jones average is tipped to open a bit more boldly, up 12 points or so from last night’s close of 18,529.

The Dow is fewer than 100 points from its all-time closing high but the bulls will not have drawn much encouragement to push the index to the summit from the latest non-farm productivity numbers, which showed output dipped unexpectedly in the second quarter, by 0.5%, versus expectations of a 0.3% gain.

Productivity has now declined three quarters on the spin.

The second quarter results season seems to be subsiding, but there are still a few laggards reporting, such as luxury handbag maker Coach Inc (NYSE:COH), which produced a mixed bag of numbers.

The shares were off almost 3% in market trading despite like-for-like sales in North America rising 2% year-on-year in the second quarter, the best outcome for the firm since the second quarter of 2012.

Total sales fell short of market expectations, however.

Controversial drugs company Valeant Pharmaceuticals International Inc (TSE:VRX, NYSE:VRX) jumped 5.6% in pre-market trading as it unveiled restructuring plans with its quarterly results.

Traders marked the shares up as the company reiterated annual guidance, bolstering confidence it would not break its banking covenants.

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