US stocks closed flat on Friday even though investors welcomed Spain's efforts to seek a bailout and cheered Apple's newest iPhone that went on sale today, driving its shares to a record high.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average slipped 17.46 points, or 0.1 per cent, to close at 13,579.47. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index dipped just 0.11 of a point, or 0.01 per cent, to finish at 1460.15. The Nasdaq Composite Index rose 4.00 points, or 0.1 per cent, to close at 3179.96.
SPI futures were unchanged at 4410, signalling a flat start of local sharemarket trade on Monday, while the Australian dollar was buying $US1.0457 in offshare trade, slightly lower than $US1.0473 in late local trade on Friday.
On Wall Street, Apple, the world's most valuable public company in terms of market capitalisation, jumped to an all-time high of $US705.07 as customers lined up to buy the iPhone 5. Apple's stock ended up 0.2 per cent at $US700.10.
News from Spain helped lift stocks after the debt-laden country said it was considering freezing pensions and speeding up a planned rise in the retirement age as it raced to cut spending and meet conditions of an expected international sovereign aid package.
The moves, taken with the European Central Bank's efforts to spur growth in the euro zone and the Fed's recent announcement of a third round of quantitative easing, continued to underpin gains.
"The market is predominantly looking forward to the Federal Reserve and the QE infinity that the Fed promised, and the globally coordinated easing cycle," said Steve Wood, chief market strategist at Russell Investments in New York.
This week, though, the market's action has been muted, with the S&P 500 barely moving 0.6 per cent in either direction daily.
A quick and sharp sell-off in spot gold shortly after midday, driven by a rumour that the CME may raise margin requirements on commodities, weighed on financial services stocks, according to Joseph Greco, managing director of Meridian Equity Partners in New York.
Many banks and other companies in the financial sector have high exposure to gold and other commodities, so any increase in margin requirements would affect them, Greco said.
Spot gold later recovered to trade up 0.6 per cent at $US1777.19 an ounce in late trade, after hitting a session high of $US1787.20 - close to its 2012 high of $US1790.30.
But financial shares were still lower by late afternoon on Friday. The S&P financial index ended down 0.3 per cent.
The transportation sector limited the market's advance on Friday, when the Dow Jones Transportation Average fell 1 per cent. Earlier this week, two large shipping companies - FedEx Corp. and Norfolk Southern Corp. - warned about the impact of the weakening world economy on their results.
At the close, FedEx shares slid 0.9 per cent to $US84.39 and Norfolk Southern shares lost 1.7 per cent to $US65. On Wednesday, a few brokerage firms cut their price targets on FedEx stock. On Friday, four brokers lowered their price targets on Norfolk Southern's stock.
The benchmark Standard & Poor's 500 Index has gained 5.9 per cent since the start of August, mostly on expectations for new economic stimulus measures from the world's central banks. On September 13, the Federal Reserve announced a third round of stimulus or quantitative easing, known as Q3, intended to bolster the economy and reduce US unemployment.
The market was more active than usual because of "quadruple witching," the quarterly settlement and expiration of four different types of September equity futures and options contracts. Expiration can lead to greater volume and volatility as players adjust or exercise their derivative positions.
"There was a little bit of a sell-off towards the close, but nothing crazy," said JJ Kinahan, chief derivatives strategist at TD Ameritrade. "There is not much volatility because the market has been trading in a pretty tight range most of the day, and it looks like most of the players have already rolled their positions over the last two weeks."
Looking ahead to quarterly earnings, one bright spot came from the fashion front. Shares of Michael Kors Holdings shot up 9.3 per cent to close at $US57.35. The fashion and accessory designer's company said it will probably earn more than it expected in the second quarter as it banks on strong global sales.
Housing shares climbed, led by KB Home, up 16.4 per cent at $US15.26, after the fifth-largest US homebuilder reported a surprising quarterly profit and said its revenue backlog hit a four-year high. The PHLX housing sector index surged 1.74 per cent.
Oracle gained 0.7 per cent to $US32.47 a day after the software maker reported first-quarter earnings, excluding items, that met Wall Street's expectations. Oracle's hardware sales, however, are expected to drop further after tumbling 24 per cent from a year ago.
Volume totalled 7.92 billion shares traded on the New York Stock Exchange, the Nasdaq and the Amex.
Advancers beat decliners on both the NYSE and the Nasdaq by a ratio of 3 to 2. On the NYSE, there were 303 stocks hitting new highs and eight setting new lows. On the Nasdaq, 191 stocks touched new highs while 28 stocks reached new lows.