U.S. stocks fluctuated, as commodities from copper to gold advanced amid a slide in the dollar that was fueled by speculation global growth may not be strong enough to warrant further central-bank tightening. Crude erased an advance to fall back below $32 a barrel.
The Standard & Poor's 500 Index swung between gains and losses after rising 0.8 percent. Disappointing results at retailers dragged consumer shares lower. Crude slid, while the Bloomberg Dollar Spot Index headed for its biggest two-day loss since 2009. Emerging-market equities rallied almost 3 percent. The pound fell after Ian McCafferty, the Bank of England's only policy dissenter over the past six months, dropped his call for higher interest rates.
The dollar's retreat was sparked by data showing the U.S. services sector grew at the slowest pace in nearly two years, underscoring the vulnerability of the American economy to unsteadiness abroad. The report tipped the fixed-income market's balance closer toward zero rate hikes by the Federal Reserve this year, amid prospects central banks from Asia to Europe will act to quell the turmoil that's roiled markets in 2016. The greenback's drop helped prop up the price of gold and industrial metals.
The S&P 500 was little changed at 1,914.32 at 3:52 p.m. in New York. The gauge advanced yesterday for the first time this month, erasing a drop of more than 1 percent as oil's surge topped 7 percent. The benchmark equity gauge is down more than 6 percent so far in 2016.
Materials shares advanced 2.2 percent, as Freeport McMoRan Inc. surged with copper. Energy producers fell 0.2 percent after earlier gaining. Shares in consumer-discretionary stocks fell. Kohl's Corp. sank 19 percent after slow sales squeezed profits. Ralph Lauren Corp. plunged after the company cut its annual forecast.
Economic data did little to alter perceptions on the strength of the world's largest economy. Initial jobless claims last week rose more than expected, Labor Department data showed, while factory orders declined at a faster pace in December than the previous month.