MARKET SNAPSHOT: Nasdaq Touches Fresh Intraday Record, But Stocks Fight For Traction

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03/20/2017 | 04:17 pm

By Victor Reklaitis and Anora Mahmudova, MarketWatch

Drop in oil prices weighs on energy shares

The Nasdaq Composite on Monday briefly set an intraday trading record, and the Dow was tentatively in the green as equities fought to gain altitude in up-and-down late-morning trade.

The S&P 500 index was flat at 2,378, with five of the 11 main sectors trading lower. Gains of more than 0.2% in tech and consumer-staples helped to offset losses in energy and utilities.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average picked up 33 points, or 0.2%, to 20,947 with two-thirds of the blue-chip companies trading in positive territory. Nike, Inc.(>> Nike Inc) and Caterpillar Inc.(>> Caterpillar Inc.) were leading the gains, up more than 1.4%, while Home Depot, Inc.(>> Home Depot Inc) and Visa Inc.(V) were the top decliners.

Meanwhile, the Nasdaq Composite Index was up by 12 points, or 0.2%, at 5,912, trading in record territory, after setting an all-time high at 5,915.12.

Among speakers of the Federal Reserve, Chicago Fed. President Charles Evans , in an interview with Fox Business, said he would support three rate hikes in total this year if economic improvement persists and four increases if inflation accelerates above the central bank's 2% target.

"At this stage sideways or a move lower on the S&P 500 would make sense and perhaps that what we are seeing after gains in February," said Michael Antonelli, equity sales trader at Robert W. Baird & Co.

His comments come after the policy-setting Federal Open Market Committee on Wednesday raised benchmark interest rates for the first time in 2017.

Some analysts suggested that investors are in a wait-and-see mode amid political uncertainty about new regulations.

"This is what we call a classic 'backing and filling' in the market. Investors may be somewhat clear about the monetary policy but now waiting to see what happens legislatively," said Maris Ogg, president at Tower Bridge Advisors.

Ogg is optimistic about earnings over the next couple of years.

"We have one of the most business-friendly administrations which we expect to spur capital spending by companies, leading to better earnings growth," Ogg said.

Other markets: Oil futures fell on Monday, as some analysts blamed the drop on global growth worries after G-20 officials removed anti-protectionist language from a policy statement.

European equities lost ground, while Asian markets were mixed. Gold futures stepped higher, and a key dollar index edged lower.

Economic news: Chicago's Evans in an interview on the Fox Business cable channel said that he expected the U.S. economy grow at a 2.25% pace this year. He also suggested that if the economy continues to grow as expected and inflation flares up, he would support four rate hikes this year.

Evans is also scheduled to give a speech at the New York Association of Business Economics at 1:10 p.m. Eastern.

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Stock movers: Energy shares were leading losses, dragging indexes down. Transocean Ltd(>> Transocean LTD) and Southwestern Energy Co.(>> Southwestern Energy Company) were the top decliners on the S&P 500, down 4% and 3% respectively.

Shares of Tiffany & Co. (>> Tiffany & Co.) rose 2% after analysts at William Blair upgraded the stock.

Walt Disney Co. (>> Walt Disney Co) shares gained 0.7% after 'Beauty and the Beast' topped the box-office ticket sales over the weekend.

The U.S.-listed shares for Deutsche Bank AG(>> Deutsche Bank AG) (>> Deutsche Bank AG) traded 3.6% lower after the German lender issued new shares to raise nearly $9 billion. The bank also indicated that it slashed bonuses paid to staff by 80% last year after suffering its second consecutive full-year loss.

Sprouts Farmers Market Inc.(>> Sprouts Farmers Market Inc) was off 1.3% following reports ( that supermarket operator Albertsons Companies Inc. held preliminary merger talks with the organic grocery chain. Whole Foods Market Inc.(>> Whole Foods Market, Inc.) rose 1%.

Shares of Caterpillar Inc. (>> Caterpillar Inc.) were gaining after the industrial-equipment maker reported encouraging February retail machine-sales data .

Movado Group Inc.'s stock (>> Movado Group, Inc) fell 2.3% after the watchmaker reported quarterly results that missed expectations and announced plans to cut jobs.

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