The major U.S. market averages were mixed at midday on Wednesday, with the Dow and S&P 500 kept afloat by gains in the financial and industrial sectors, but the Nasdaq struggled to stay above water as a rally in component stock CSX ( CSX ) is offset by losses in the internet sector as a consequence of Alphabet's (GOOG, GOOGL) $5 billion fine from the European Union.
Stock futures were cautiously lower before the open as Wall Street braced for Fed Chairman Jerome Powell's testimony to the House Financial Services Committee, and housing market data for June. Powell echoed Tuesday's Humphrey-Hawkins testimony to the Senate with little reaction from Wall Street.
NEC director Larry Kudlow's somber remarks about China's obstruction to trade negotiations were also ignored by investors who instead, zeroed in on Kudlow's "no recession in sight" remark, driving share prices out of the red and the S&P 500 to a five-month high.
Stocks were already on the upswing when a substantial drop in June housing starts unleased a short-lived buying spree amid expectations the soft housing market data will discourage the Fed from raising rates more aggressively and choking off demand for mortgages.
Housing starts fell 12.3% last month while permits -- a barometer of future trends -- were down 2.2%, missing expectations to increase by a similar percentage. Consequently, homebuilder stocks were all sharply lower.
In corporate news, Alphabet, pulled away from a new record high after the European Union levied a $5 billion fine for antitrust practices. Better-than-expected results from Morgan Stanley ( MS ) underpinned the financial sector, while strong results from CSX and United Continental ( UAL ) propped up the Dow transportation index to a nearly four-week high.
Following the lead of their U.S. counterparts, European bourses were higher, led by gains in the tech sector following positive results from Ericsson ( ERIC ), and autos on expectations for trade negotiations with the U.S. Despite being plagued by the political turmoil between UK Prime Minister Theresa May and parliament, the UK's FTSE-100 also closed higher thanks to softer sterling and its impact on multi-nationals.
Crude oil was up $0.50 to $68.42 per barrel. Natural gas was down $0.01 to $2.73 per 1 million BTU. Gold was down $0.70 to $1,226.70 an ounce, while silver was down $0.07 to $15.55 an ounce. Copper was up $0.01 to $2.76 per pound.
Among energy ETFs, the United States Oil Fund was up 0.43% to $14.01 with the United States Natural Gas Fund was down 0.05% to $22.18. Amongst precious-metal funds, the Market Vectors Gold Miners ETF was down 0.23% to $21.74 while SPDR Gold Shares were down 0.09% to $116.17. The iShares Silver Trust was down 0.41% to $14.61.
Here's where the markets stand at mid-day:
NYSE Composite Index was up 15.29 points (+0.30%) to 12,817.90
Dow Jones Industrial Index was up 83.14 points (+0.33%) to 25,203.03
S&P 500 was up 5.22 points (+0.18%) to 2,814.67
Nasdaq Composite Index was down 3.52 points (-0.04%) to 7,851.42
FTSE 100 was up 49.95 points (+0.65%) to 7,676.28
DAX was up 104.40 points (+0.82%) to 12,765.94
CAC 40 was up 24.90 points (+0.46%) to 5,447.44
Nikkei 225 was up 96.83 points (+0.43%) to 22,794.19
Hang Seng Index was down 64.26 points (-0.23%) to 28,117.42
Shanghai China Composite Index was down 9.69 points (-0.35%) to 2,788.44
NYSE SECTOR INDICES
NYSE Energy Sector Index was down 11.90 points (-0.10%) to 12,018.59
NYSE Financial Sector Index was up 70.07 points (+0.89%) to 8,031.07
NYSE Healthcare Sector Index was up 25.93 points (+0.17%) to 15,021.08
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