North American stocks showed little change at the start of trading on Friday, as investors contemplated a reading on U.S. consumer confidence ahead of a three-day weekend in the United States.
The Dow Jones industrial average fell 27 points or 0.2 per cent, to 12,503. The broader S&P 500 rose 1 point or 0.1 per cent, to 1,322. In Canada, the S&P/TSX composite index rose 19 points or 0.2 per cent, to 11,585.
The moves follow mixed signals from Europe. Optimism jumped on Thursday evening after Italy’s prime minister said that Germany might be open to considering the issue of euro bonds – seen by some as a good step toward ending the sovereign debt crisis. At the same time, some people are convinced that the European Central Bank is about to step into the fray with either interest rate cuts or some other form of stimulus or financial engineering to restore confidence to the region.
Stocks have been weighed down for a couple of weeks by rising concerns about Greece, and whether the political vacuum there will lead to the country leaving the euro zone – with potential messy implications for Europe and the global economy. Meanwhile, in Spain, regulators suspended trading in the country’s fourth largest bank, Bankia SA, ahead of what is expected to be a bailout package worth €15-billion.
Soon after trading began, the University of Michigan released updated figures on its consumer confidence index. The latest reading for May rose to 79.3, above expectations.
Commodities moved slightly higher. Gold rose to $1,560 (U.S.) an ounce, up $2.40. Crude oil rose to $90.96 a barrel, up 30 cents.
Garda World Security Corp. rose 5.2 per cent after it released upbeat first-quarter results. Earnings rose 39 per cent over last year, to $6.3-million (Canadian) or 20 cents a share, well ahead of the 16 cents a share expected by analysts.