Stocks Retreat from Record Levels - KiiiTV.com South Texas, Corpus Christi, Coastal Bend

Stocks Retreat from Record Levels

Posted: Updated:

(CNN) -- U.S. stocks fell Friday morning, with the S&P 500 holding just below its all-time closing high.

The S&P 500 was down about 4 points to 1,559, six points away from its October 2007 record. The Dow Jones industrial average was down 0.2% and the Nasdaq was flat.

The Dow has finished higher the past 10 trading days, its best winning streak since 1996. If the Dow winds up higher Friday, it would be the best stretch since January 1992.

Stocks fell as investors weighed two reports about the economy in the United States.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics on Friday said the consumer price index rose 0.7% last month. CPI was expected to have risen 0.5%, according to a Briefing.com consensus. Core CPI, which excludes volatile food and energy prices, rose 0.2% last month, as expected. On an annual basis, the inflation rate is 2%.

Industrial production rose 0.7% in February, after being flat the month before, according to the Federal Reserve. Economists surveyed by Briefing.com were expecting a 0.4% rise.

"Despite the improvement in recent data, the economic outlook continues to look uncertain as we wait for fiscal tightening to take its toll," said BNP economist Bricklin Dwyer, in a research note, referring to automatic federal budget cuts that have recently gone into effect

Dwyer said the $85 billion in cuts should cause "inevitable pain" to the markets and economy, but added that the "seas are calm" for the time being.

Trading could be choppy since Friday is the last day for closing out certain options, known as "quadruple witching." That's when four types of contracts expire -- those tied to market index futures, market index options, stock options and stock futures. While many traders try to settle out those contracts ahead of expiration, there is often some volatility on the actual witching day.

Bank stocks were in focus after the Federal Reserve on Thursday approved the capital plans submitted by 16 of the 18 banks it subjected to stress tests.

Bank of America shares rose after it announced plans to repurchase $10.5 billion in common stock and preferred shares. Wells Fargo said it would increase its quarterly dividend payment to 30 cents per share dividend starting in the second quarter.

Meanwhile, JPMorgan Chase and Goldman Sachs both dipped after the Fed approved their capital plans, but with conditions attached. Shares BB&T Corp., one of only two banks to have its capital plans rejected, also fell.

Separately, the Senate accused JPMorgan Chase of intentionally misleading investors about the so-called London Whale trades, which ultimately led to losses of $6 billion for the bank. Former chief investment officer Ina Drew and other executives are testifying before a Senate panel Friday morning.

European markets were lower in morning trading. "With the EU's summit continuing today in Brussels, the news flow has so far been focused around the growth versus austerity debate," wrote Deutsche Bank analyst Jim Reid.

Asian markets ended mixed. Japan's Nikkei extended recent gains after parliament confirmed the appointment of Haruhiko Kuroda as Bank of Japan governor, raising expectations of swift monetary easing. Hong Kong's Hang Seng fell on lingering concerns about local measures to curb runaway real estate prices.