Stocks close higher despite looming budget cuts
NEW YORK — An encouraging manufacturing report nudged the stock market higher Friday, giving it a slight gain for the week, even as a deadline for avoiding sweeping government spending cuts loomed.
The Dow Jones industrial average rose 35.17 points, or 0.3 percent, to close at 14,089.66.
It was down as much as 117 points in early trading but recovered following news U.S. manufacturing expanded in February at the fastest pace since June 2011. The Institute for Supply Management said its manufacturing index reached 54.2, up from January’s reading of 53.1. Any reading above 50 signals growth.
President Barack Obama summoned congressional leaders to the White House for a meeting aimed at avoiding the $85 billion in across-the-board spending cuts set to kick in Friday. The cuts are part of a 10-year, $1.5 trillion deficit reduction plan that was designed to be so distasteful to both Democrats and Republicans that they would be forced to drum up a longer-term budget deal.
Any agreement between the White House and Congress on the spending cuts could drive the market up next week, regardless of whether investors consider it a good deal or not, said Stephen Carl, head equity trader at The Williams Capital Group in New York.
“The lack of clarity is the problem,” he said. “I think it will be a positive for the market just as long as there’s concrete news.”
In other Friday trading, the Standard & Poor’s 500 index rose 3.52 points, or 0.2 percent, to 1,518.20. The Nasdaq composite gained 9.55 points, 0.3 percent, to 3,169.74.
All three indexes ended higher for the week: The Dow rose 0.6 percent, the S&P 500 and Nasdaq each rose about 0.2 percent.
Oil and gas companies fell Friday as the price of crude sank to its lowest level of the year. Halliburton, Peabody Energy and other energy stocks were among the biggest losers in the S&P 500. Benchmark U.S. crude oil dropped below $91 a barrel.
Americans’ incomes fell 3.6 percent in January, the worst one-month drop in 20 years, the Commerce Department said Friday. U.S. consumers increased spending modestly in January but cut back on major purchases. The report suggests the expiration of tax cuts on Jan. 1 may have made Americans more cautious.