US stocks end strong week on mixed note

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NEW YORK (AFP) - Major US stock indices finished on a muted note on Friday (Feb 16) after a strong week, with the Dow and S&P 500 edging barely higher and the Nasdaq falling slightly.

After a choppy session, the Dow Jones Industrial Average ended 0.1 per cent higher at 25,219.38, its sixth straight gain.

The broad-based S&P 500 inched up less than 0.1 per cent to 2,732.22, while the tech-rich Nasdaq Composite Index shed 0.2 per cent to close the week at 6,770.66.

US stocks were solidly positive at midday, but slid sharply after US Special Counsel Robert Mueller indicted 13 Russian nationals and three companies accused of running a secret campaign to tilt the 2016 presidential election.

The declines coincided with that news, but markets tend to pull back ahead of long holiday weekends as investors pare down risk-oriented assets, said Art Hogan, chief market strategist at Wunderlich Securities.

US financial markets are closed Monday for the President's Day holiday.

US stocks have clawed back a good portion of the losses suffered over a six-day stretch following the US jobs report released Feb 2, which ignited concerns that the Federal Reserve would accelerate interest rate increases to stem rising inflation.

"The pace of the correction we saw dictated the pace of the recovery," said Hogan, adding that he expects 2018 to be much more volatile than the unusually placid 2017.

US steel companies rallied after the Trump administration recommended imposing heavy tariffs on China, Russia and other countries to counter a global glut in steel and aluminum. US Steel surged 14.8 per cent and Nucor gained 4.5 per cent.

Kraft Heinz tumbled dropped 2.6 per cent after reporting disappointing sales, prompting chief executive Bernardo Hees to acknowledge that the company's 2017 performance "did not reflect our progress or potential."

Hasbro rose 1.5 per cent while Mattel dropped 2.4 per cent after Wall Street weighed in on the companies' new product slate ahead of a major trade show in New York.

New offerings included Mattel's revamp of its Thomas train line and Hasbro's offerings tied to the "Black Panther" superhero movie.

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