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Wall Street drifts as week of erratic swings comes to close

NEW YORK — Stocks are drifting in early trading on Wall Street Friday, the latest eddies in a week full of erratic swings driven by worries about rising coronavirus counts.

The S&P 500 was down 0.3%, as of 10:09 a.m. Eastern time, after flipping between small gains and losses in the first few minutes of trading. It followed up on a mixed performance for stocks in Europe and Asia.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average was virtually flat at 25,706, while the Nasdaq composited fell 0.7% from its record. Most stocks in the market were up, though, and the Russell 2000 index of small-cap stocks was 0.2% higher.

Treasury yields were dipping a bit, while the price of gold peeked higher in another sign of caution continuing to hang over markets. Even Chinese stocks took a break from their torrid run. Stocks in Shanghai slumped nearly 2% for their first drop in nearly two weeks. They’re still up 14.3% over that span.

Markets have been swinging this week as worsening coronavirus infection counts across the U.S. Sun Belt and other global hotspots raise concerns that the economy’s recent budding improvements may be set to stall. The S&P 500 has flip-flopped between gains and losses since Monday, and it’s on pace for a modest weekly gain of 0.6%. It’s a microcosm of the up-and-down churn stocks have been stuck in for a little more than a month.

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After plummeting nearly 34% from its February record on recession worries, the S&P 500 quickly regained nearly all its losses by early June after central banks promised massive amounts of aid for the economy and hopes rose that a recovery was coming. Momentum has stalled since then, though, along with expectations for the economy by some economists.

A report on Friday showed that prices at the wholesale level fell last month from May, a weaker reading than the growth that economists were expecting. It’s a signal of how weakened activity throughout the economy is keeping a lid on inflation.

Stocks that would most benefit from a reopening and strengthening economy were taking the lead Friday morning, though.

Royal Caribbean Cruises gained 4.2%, and Southwest Airlines added 2.6%.

Banks were also strong, with financial stocks in the S&P 500 up 0.9%. A stronger economy would mean their borrowers are better able to repay their loans.

Energy stocks climbed with the price of oil, which has swung sharply with hopes for the economy. Benchmark U.S. crude oil rose 0.8% to $39.91 per barrel. Brent crude, the international standard, add 0.6% to $42.62.

On the losing end were some of the stocks that have been holding up best this year: big tech-oriented giants. Apple slipped 0.9%, and Microsoft dropped 1.3%. It’s at least a temporary turnaround for such stocks, which have continued to climb as investors bet they’ll be able to keep growing almost regardless of the economy’s strength.

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Because these tech giants are so big — just five of them make up 23% of the S&P 500’s market value — their movements have outsized sway on market indexes. That helped weigh on the S&P 500, even though most stocks in the index rose.

The yield on the 10-year Treasury, which tends to move with investors’ expectations for the economy and inflation, dipped to 0.59% from 0.60% late Thursday. The 30-year yield fell to 1.28% from 1.31%.

Gold rose 0.3% to $1,809.40 per ounce.

In overseas stock markets, European markets edged up after official figures showed industrial production bounced back sharply in some countries.

Manufacturing jumped 22% month-on-month in France in May, making up for the previous month’s fall. In Italy industrial production spiked 42% during the same month.

The CAC 40 in France added 0.8%, while Germany’s DAX returned 0.9%. The FTSE 100 in London gained 0.7%.

In Asia, the Nikkei 225 in Tokyo shed 1.1%, the Hang Seng in Hong Kong retreated 1.8% to 25,727.41 and the Kospi in Seoul lost 0.8%.