Stocks wavered in a tight range Friday as energy shares gained modestly while "quadruple witching" expiration of futures and options stirred up volatility. Gold soared to a new record.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average swayed between positive and negative territory after eking out a gain in the prior session. Both the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq also wavered.
Energy, materials and financials were among the day's leaders, while telecoms and health care dragged.
"Quadruple witching" is the simultaneous expiration of stock index futures, single stock futures, stock options and stock index options, an event that notoriously stirs a lot of volatility in the market.
The CBOE volatility index, widely considered the best gauge of fear in the market, fell near 24.
“Traders tend to stay aside [during quadruple witching] and as a result, there’s not a lot of liquidity,” said Doug Roberts, chief investment strategist at Channel Capital Research. “I wouldn’t really get aggressive right now, but I prefer the small-cap area.”
Gold soared to a new highabove $1,260 an ounce, while oil topped $77 a barrel.
Large-cap techs were mostly higher, with Cisco leading the Dow. And Apple rosenear the top of the Nasdaq pack after Susquehanna raised their price target on the iPhone maker to $335 from $325.
Investors juggled between the risk trade and playing it safe this week as utilities, technology and industrials are the week's winning sectors, while consumer discretionary and telecom were the laggards.
Caterpillar rose after the company reported dealer sales of heavy machinery rose 11 percentin the three months ending in May, snapping a nearly two-year decline, amid strong demand from Asia.
Citigroup shares rose as the bank is mulling a plan to raise $3 billionin private equity and hedge funds this year.
BP shares rose amid some relief after Congress grilled CEO Tony Hayward and there was some buzz about Hawyard being ousted and who might succeed him.
During the dramatic hearing on Thursday, lawmakers lambasted CEO Tony Hayward’s “lack of candor.” Hayward infuriated representatives with his evasive explanations regarding the spill, referring to multiple variations on the same them: That he had no direct involvement or knowledge of problems on the Deepwater Horizon, even though engineers lower down in BP's hierarchy had spoken about a "nightmare well."
Meanwhile, shares of Transocean jumped almost 10 percent, but the outperformance is mainly because the deepwater driller was added to the Swiss stock index at the close of trading in Europe today.