The choppy trading for stocks follows a four-week winning streak for the benchmark S&P 500. Investors remain concerned about stubbornly hot inflation and its impact on consumers and businesses. Financial results from big retailers and economic updates throughout the week have shown that the economy remains under pressure from inflation, but has several pockets of resiliency.
“The market is looking for direction and it seems people are caught between the idea of slowing economic growth and slowing inflation,” said Chris Zaccarelli, chief investment officer at Independent Advisor Alliance.
Slightly fewer Americans filed for unemployment benefits last week, according to the Labor Department, as the labor market continues to stand out as one of the strongest segments of the US economy. The solid update on the employment market follows an encouraging report on Wednesday that showed retail sales remain solid despite the hottest inflation in four decades.
Investors have been closely watching the Federal Reserve for any reaction to shifts in inflation or the economy. The central bank has been raising interest rates in an effort to slow the economy and cool inflation, but Wall Street is concerned it could slam the brakes too hard and veer into a recession instead.
Any sign that inflation is peaking or cooling has given Wall Street hope that the Fed could consider easing up on rate hikes. It raised its benchmark interest rate by three-quarters of a point for a second-straight time during its meeting in July and is expected to raise the rate by a half-percentage point at its upcoming meeting.
The minutes from last month’s meeting of Federal Reserve policymakers showed that policymakers expected the economy to expand in the second half of 2022, though many suggested that growth would weaken as higher rates take hold. The Fed intends to continue raising rates enough to slow the economy.
Wall Street continues monitoring potential trade issues between the US and China after the US government said it will hold trade talks with Taiwan in a sign of support for the island democracy that China claims as its own territory, prompting Beijing to warn that it will take action if necessary to “safeguard its sovereignty.”
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