Wall Street shaky, but averages on track for monthly gains; gold settles at 4-month low

New York (May 31)  U.S. stocks were wavering between small losses and gains Friday afternoon, but the major averages were still on track to post both weekly and monthly gains.

May has been positive for stocks, with advances during the month taking the S&P 500 to record levels, while both the Nasdaq and the Dow turned positive for the year. A rally on Wall Street yesterday sent the S&P 500 to a new record finish, and the Dow about 17 points from its all-time high.

Within the last hour of trade before the closing bell in New York, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was down 10 points at 16,689, while the Nasdaq fell 11 points to 4,237 and the S&P 500 edged up 1 point to 1,921.

Friday marked another busy day for economic numbers, beginning with April personal income and consumer spending data. U.S. consumer spending in April fell 0.1% for the first time in a year, while personal income last month rose 0.3%. Economists had expected a 0.1% advance in spending and a 0.4% rise in income.

At 9:55am ET, the University of Michigan released its final May consumer sentiment index, coming in at 81.9, just above the preliminary reading of 81.8, but below April's strong final reading of 84.1. Economists expected a reading of 82.5, according to consensus estimates.

In global markets, Asian stocks settled mixed, while European shares finished mostly lower despite posting their seventh week of gains. French bank BNP posted its sharpest decline in more than a year as it faces a $10 billion fine to resolve a criminal probe into allegations that for years it evaded sanctions against Iran and other countries. Meanwhile, Russia, Ukraine and the European Commission are looking to settle their gas dispute today in an ongoing controversy plaguing the region. Ukraine is the transit nation for half of the gas Russia sells to the EU.

In commodities, July crude fell 87 cents, or 0.8%, to settle at $102.71 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange, losing 1.6% for the week, but up 3% on the month. Gold futures suffered their biggest monthly decline of the year, as investors favoured riskier assets over the precious metal. August gold fell $11.10, or 0.9%, to settle at $1,246 an ounce on the Comex division of the New York Mercantile Exchange, its lowest settlement in four months. Tracking the most active contract, futures for gold lost 3.5% for the week and 3.9% for the month.