Wall Street capped a volatile run for stocks with a broad rally today, contributing to sizable weekly gains for major indexes.
The S&P 500 rose 2.4% and notched its biggest weekly gain since June. The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 2.5% and the Nasdaq composite ended 2.3% higher.
More than 90% of the stocks in the benchmark S&P 500 index rose. Technology stocks, retailers and health care companies powered a big share of the rally. Oracle rose 5%, Home Depot added 2.3% and Pfizer rose 4.8%.
Social media companies fell broadly after Snapchat’s parent company issued a weak forecast and the Washington Post reported that Elon Musk plans to slash about three-quarters of the payroll at Twitter after he buys the company. Snap slumped 28.1% and Twitter shed 4.9%.
Markets have been unsettled in recent days, as stocks lurched from sharp gains early in the week to losses later in the week. The market appeared headed for another sell-off early today, then reversed course amid fresh signals from the Federal Reserve that it may consider easing up on its aggressive pace of interest rate hikes as it tries to bring down inflation.
“The hope is that they at least slow down,” Jay Hatfield, CEO of Infrastructure Capital Advisors.
The Fed is expected to raise interest rates another three-quarters of a percentage point at its upcoming meeting in November. Markets have been unsettled partly because investors have been hoping that any sign of inflation easing or economic growth slowing could signal that the Fed will ease up on its rate increases, which have yet to show any signs of significantly impacting inflation.
Mary Daly, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, said today that she’s thinking about the dangers of raising interest rates too high and doing too much damage to the economy.
While the Fed likely isn’t yet ready to start dialing down the size of its rate hikes, she said, “I think the time is now to start talking about stepping down. The time is now to start planning for stepping down.”
If the Fed does come out of its meeting next month with a fourth straight increase of 0.75 percentage points to its key overnight interest rate, as most investors expect, she said: “I would really recommend people don’t take that away as: It’s 75 forever.”
A 0.75 point jump is triple the size of the Fed’s usual move, and the Fed risks creating a recession if it moves too high or too quickly.
Daly’s comments helped push down investors’ expectations for how high the Fed will hike rates through the end of the year. Traders are now pricing in just a 45% chance that the Fed will hike rates by 0.75 percentage points next month and again by the same amount in December.
Just a day ago, they were much more confident about that, pricing in a 75% probability. Instead, traders increasingly see the Fed dialing down to a more modest increase of 0.50 percentage points in December, according to CME Group.
Daly was speaking at meeting of the University of California-Berkeley’s Fisher Center for Real Estate & Urban Economics’ Policy Advisory Board.
Central banks around the world have mostly been raising interest rates to fight inflation and much of the focus has been on the Fed. It has raised its key interest rate to a range of 3% to 3.25%. A little more than six months ago, that rate was near zero.
Even if the Fed does dial down the size of its increases soon, officials at the central bank have also been adamant that they plan to leave rates alone at that high level for a while to continue to slow the economy in hopes of forcing down high inflation.
“The concern is still that bond yields are heading higher and the Fed is not signaling a pivot,” said Ross Mayfield, investment strategist at Baird. “Until there is a meaningful pivot driven by a drop in inflation, it’s a huge headwind to the market.”
Treasury yields, which hit multiyear highs this week on expectations of more Fed rate hikes, eased today. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note, which affects mortgage rates, slipped to 4.22% from 4.24% late Thursday. The yield on the two-year Treasury, which tends to track investors’ expectations for Federal Reserve action on interest rates, fell to 4.49% from 4.61%.
Stocks got a boost from the pullback in yields. The S&P 500 rose 86.97 points to 3,752.75. The index posted a 4.7% gain for the week.
The Dow climbed 748.97 points to close at 31,082.56, and the Nasdaq added 244.87 points to 10,859.72.
Small company stocks also gained ground. The Russell 2000 index rose 37.85 points, or 2.2%, to finish at 1,742.24.
Investors have shifted their focus, for now, to the latest round of corporate earnings as they look for more clues about how hot inflation and rising interest rates are shaping the economy. Reports from airlines, banks, railroad operators and others have so far provided mixed financial results and forecasts.
American Express fell 1.7% after setting aside hundreds of millions of dollars to cover potential losses as the economy continues to deteriorate. Railroad CSX rose 1.7% after reporting solid financial results.
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