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Wall St. struggles for direction as Irma threatens Florida

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Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York, U.S., September 8, 2017.

U.S. stocks were mixed in choppy trading on Friday as investors assessed the financial impact of Hurricane Harvey and tracked Hurricane Irma as it plowed toward Florida.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average was higher, helped by a rise in financial stocks as U.S. Treasury yields rebounded from 10-months lows. The Nasdaq Composite declined, pulled lower by Apple and Comcast. The S&P 500 was little changed.

The indexes, however, were on track to end the week lower, with many economists forecasting that third-quarter GDP will take a blow from the hurricanes.

Irma was set to hit Florida as early as Saturday, with FEMA warning that parts of Florida could be out of electricity for days, if not longer.

The hurricane, the strongest recorded in the Atlantic Ocean, comes on the heels of Harvey, which shut a quarter of U.S. refineries and 8 percent of U.S. oil production.

“Third-quarter GDP could be impacted by the hurricanes,” said Stephen Wood, chief market strategist at Russell Investments in New York. “I think (hurricanes) are factors in how markets are pricing recently, but fundamentals are driving decisions.”


Harvey may end up being the most expensive natural disaster in the United States since 1980, costing $70 billion to $108 billion, according to BofA Merrill Lynch.

The brokerage cut its estimate for third-quarter U.S. GDP growth by 0.4 percentage points to 2.5 percent.

At 12:26 p.m. ET (1626 GMT), the Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 45.55 points, or 0.21 percent, at 21,830.33 and the S&P 500 was down 1.56 points, or 0.06 percent, at 2,463.54.

The Nasdaq Composite was down 25.45 points, or 0.4 percent, at 6,372.42.

Gold prices held near their highest in more than a year and the dollar index .DXY hit its weakest since January 2015 as the broader markets braced for North Korea celebrating its founding on Saturday, and as Irma headed for Florida.

Six of the 11 major S&P indexes were lower, with the teleservices .SPLRCL and energy .SPNY sectors leading the decliners.

The financial .SPSY sector rose 0.83 percent, recovering from a 1.6 percent decline on Thursday. Most insurers, including Chubb and Travelers, were higher as investors sought bargains after Thursday’s selloff.

The financial sector, however, is headed for its second straight week of declines as an interest rate hike in December becomes less likely.

Traders have sharply reduced the odds for another interest rate hike this year. The chances of a December move are at 26.4 percent, compared with 42 percent a week ago, according to the CME Group’s FedWatch tool.

Equifax was the biggest loser on the S&P, sinking more than 12 percent, after the provider of consumer credit scores said personal details of as many as 143 million U.S. consumers were hacked.

Kroger shares were on track to post their biggest single-day fall in about 3 months after the biggest U.S. supermarket company issued a disappointing forecast.

Declining issues outnumbered advancers on the NYSE by 1,480 to 1,292. On the Nasdaq, 1,415 issues rose and 1,402 fell.

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Wall St. struggles for direction as Irma threatens Florida
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