US stocks mixed as markets weigh better data, inflation

NEW YORK (AFP) – Investors weighed better US economic data against inflation worries on Wednesday (Feb 17), resulting in a mixed session with another Dow record but a lower Nasdaq.

US government data showed retail sales jumped 5.3 per cent in January, much more than expected, and pointing to a pickup from the last stimulus package enacted in December.

But the producer price index which measures wholesale inflation spiked 1.3, the largest since the index was revamped in December 2009, the Labour Department reported. That could fuel concerns that inflation could make a comeback, especially with massive government spending.

“It seems we will get some jump of inflation at some point but is it just a temporary jump or a big inflation problem?” asked LBBW’s Karl Haeling. “That’s the big discussion.”

Federal Reserve officials showed no concern about inflation pressures in their meeting in late January, even as they acknowledged some temporary price spikes are likely, according to the meeting minutes.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average scored a third straight record, finishing 0.3 per cent higher at 31,613.02.

The broad-based S&P 500 slipped less than 0.1 per cent to end at 3,931.31, while the tech-rich Nasdaq Composite Index shed 0.6 per cent to 13,965.49.

The two biggest gainers in the Dow were Chevron, up 3 per cent, and Verizon, up 5.2 per cent, after Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway disclosed investments in both companies.

Ford dipped 0.3 per cent as it announced a US$1 billion (S$1.3 billion) investment in Germany to build up its electric car fleet for the European market.

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