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US Stocks Gain More Ground Friday      12/01 16:06

   A broad rally on Wall Street closed out a fifth straight week of gains for 
the market Friday, driving the S&P 500 to its highest level in more than a year.

   (AP) -- A broad rally on Wall Street closed out a fifth straight week of 
gains for the market Friday, driving the S&P 500 to its highest level in more 
than a year.

   The benchmark index rose 0.6%, eclipsing its previous high for the year set 
in July. The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed 0.8% higher, while the Nasdaq 
composite added 0.6%. Gainers outnumbered decliners by roughly 6-to-1 on the 
New York Stock Exchange.

   The latest gains followed the market's best month in more than a year. 
Growing expectations on Wall Street that the Federal Reserve may cut interest 
rates a soon as early next year have put investors in a buying mood.

   "A lot of investors now are accelerating when the Fed is likely to initiate 
its first cut to the end of the first quarter of 2024, rather than the the 
prior forecast of some time in the second quarter," said Sam Stovall, chief 
investment strategist at CFRA.

   Hope that the Federal Reserve is finally done raising interest rates in its 
fight to control inflation helped push markets steadily higher through much of 
November. Recent economic data supports that view.

   On Thursday, the Fed's preferred measure of inflation showed a cooling last 
month. Inflation has been easing overall since the middle of 2022 when the Fed 
started aggressively raising its benchmark interest rate. That followed mostly 
encouraging updates on economic growth and consumer confidence that have raised 
hopes that the Fed will achieve its sought-after "soft landing," which involves 
cooling the inflation without throwing the economy into a recession.

   A government report on Friday showed that construction spending continued 
rising in October, topping economists' forecasts for growth. Wall Street will 
get several updates next week on the job market, including the government's 
closely watched monthly employment report for November.

   Speaking at Spelman College in Atlanta on Friday, Fed Chair Jerome Powell 
said "It would be premature to conclude with confidence" that the central bank 
has raised its benchmark interest rate high enough to fully defeat inflation. 
He added that it's not the time to speculate on when the Fed will cut rates.

   That didn't dash Wall Street's optimism of a Fed rate cut happening as soon 
as next spring. Investors see a nearly 56% chance of it happening in March, up 
from just a 21% chance a week ago, according to data from CME Group.

   Treasury yields have been broadly falling amid sentiment that the Fed's 
aggressive rate hike policy is finished and potentially heading for a reversal. 
The trend continued Friday. The yield on the 10-year Treasury, which influences 
mortgage rates, fell to 4.21% from 4.34% late Thursday. It was as high as 5.00% 
in October.

   The yield on the two-year Treasury fell to 4.55% from 4.70% late Thursday. 
Falling bond yields have helped relieve pressure on stocks, especially 
technology stocks.

   Investors entered December on track to close out the year with solid gains. 
The S&P 500 is up 19.7% and the Nasdaq composite is up 36.7% in 2023. 
Smaller-company stocks have also recently turned higher for the year following 
the market's recent rally. The Russell 2000 index is now up 5.8% for the year.

   All told, the S&P 500 rose 26.83 points to 4,594.63, its highest level since 
March 30, 2022. The Dow added 294.61 points to close at 36,245.50. The Nasdaq 
gained 78.81 points to finish at 14,305.03.

   European markets closed higher and Asian markets finished mostly lower.

   Industrial stocks were among the biggest gainers Friday. Construction 
equipment maker Caterpillar rose 2.4% and railroad operator Union Pacific rose 

   Elsewhere in the market, computer maker Dell fell 5.2% after giving 
investors a weaker-than-expected revenue forecast. Beauty products retailer 
Ulta Beauty jumped 10.8% after reporting results that beat estimates.

   Oil prices remained relatively steady. They have been broadly easing for 
several months, as have U.S. gasoline prices. That is helping to relieve 
pressure on American families and businesses from rising prices.

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