US stock indexes mostly down in afternoon trading; oil rises

At 9:33 a.m. ET (1333 GMT) the Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 1.17 points, or 0.01 percent, at 20,660.49.

The Nasdaq slid 2.61 (-0.04 percent) to close at 5,911.74, while the S&P 500 finished at 2,362.72, down 5.34 (-0.23 percent) from its open.

Seven of the 11 major S&P sectors were higher, with the energy index's 0.51 percent rise leading the advancers.

On Nasdaq, Jaguar Animal Health Inc (NASDAQ:JAGX) shifted into top gear, rising 19% to US$1.1307 as it entered into a merger agreement with Napo Pharmaceuticals Inc.

Earlier, the government said the US economy, as measured by gross domestic product, expanded at a 2.1% annualized pace in the fourth quarter, slightly faster than the previously reported 1.9% rate.

The report said initial jobless claims edged down to 258,000, a decrease of 3,000 from the previous week's 261,000. In February, the Dow closed at an all-time high for a record-setting 12 days straight. The failure raised questions about the Trump administration's ability to pass its economic agenda, which had been seen as market-friendly.

While European central bank officials doused expectations policy makers were planning to withdraw monetary support, Fed officials shifted to a more hawkish tone, as the world's biggest economy progresses toward goals for full employment and 2 percent inflation. New York Fed President William Dudley reportedly said Friday that the Fed's forecast of two more interest rate hikes this year seems reasonable, though he cautioned that higher consumer and business confidence is not translating into hard data.

USA markets ended higher in Thursday's session, with financials leading the way, as investors digested economic figures & facts and eyed oil prices.

How does the extraordinary calm sweeping through the USA stock market stack up against history?

On the New York Mercantile Exchange, West Texas Intermediate crude for May delivery added 84 cents, or 1.7%, to settle at $50.35 a barrel. DuPont shares fell $1.31, or 1.6 percent, to $80.33.

Data is as of March 29, 2017. That represented an improvement on a year earlier when it posted a loss of US$238mln, or 45 cents a share. The June contract, which ended flat on Tuesday and lost roughly 0.2% on Wednesday, marked its lowest settlement since March 20.

Stripping out one-off items, the company's earnings per share this time round were positive at four cents; analysts who follow the stock had expected earnings per share to be on or around zero.

TRUMP WATCH: U.S. President Donald Trump tweeted that his April 6-7 meeting with his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, "will be a very hard one in that we can no longer have massive trade deficits and job losses".

  • Wendy Palmer