Wall Street: US stocks inch higher before next week’s busy slate of updates

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 US stocks inched higher on Friday to close a listless week for Wall Street, as investors wait for next week’s slate of potentially market-moving updates.

The S&P 500 rose 4.93, or 0.1 per cent , to 4,298.86 to cap its fourth straight winning week, the Dow Jones Industrial Average added 43.17, or 0.1 per cent , to 33,876.78, and the Nasdaq composite gained 20.62, or 0.2 per cent , to 13,259.14.

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Tesla was at the front of the market, rallying 4.1 per cent  after announcing General Motors electric vehicles will be able to use much of its extensive charging network beginning early next year. GM rose 1.1 per cent .

Energy stocks fell along with the price of crude oil. Exxon Mobil slipped 0.7 per cent  and was one of the heavier weights on the market. Ski resort operator Vail Resorts dropped 7.1 per cent  after reporting weaker results for the latest quarter than analysts expected.

This week has been relatively quiet for markets, even with the benchmark S&P 500 index gaining enough on Thursday to close 20 per cent  above its October low, entering a new bull market.

More fireworks could arrive next week when the government releases the latest monthly updates on inflation at the consumer and wholesale levels. The Federal Reserve will also announce its latest move on interest rates.

So far, the economy has been able to avoid a recession even though the Fed has jacked rates up at a furious pace for more than a year in hopes of driving down inflation. The highest rates since 2007 have helped inflation come down some, but it is still above everyone’s comfort level.

That means the big question on Wall Street is whether inflation will come down quickly enough for the Fed to take it easier on interest rates before high rates force the economy into a recession.

A stronger-than-expected report on hiring last week raised hopes that the economy can slide through its troubles without a recession, but many other areas have already begun to crack.

Besides helping to cause three-high profile US banking failures since March, high interest rates have also pushed the manufacturing industry to shrink for months.

The banking industry’s turmoil has also caused banks to make it tougher for customers to get loans, which adds more stress to the economy.

“I can’t tell you precisely when this recession will come to roost, but it feels likes it’s coming,” said Amanda Agati, chief investment officer of PNC Asset Management Group.

“And the market is not priced for it. I don’t want to be dramatic and say a day of reckoning is coming, but there will be a wake-up call.”

She is expecting only a modest recession, not a deeply painful one like the downturns following the 2007-08 financial crisis and the 2020 onset of the Covid pandemic, but she is concerned by how high the stock market has climbed, driven in particular by just a small handful of stocks.

“This is the market thinking we’re going to muddle along and then the Fed is going to get out of the driver’s seat: the Fed is going to cut rates, and we’re going to power into 2024,” Ms Agati said. “And I think that’s awfully delusional.”

She says rates could climb higher than Wall Street expects and stay high for longer than investors are forecasting because inflation has remained stubbornly high.

The wide expectation among traders is that the Fed will hold interest rates steady at its meeting next week. If it does, it will be the first meeting where the Fed has not hiked rates in more than a year. After that, the widespread bet is that the Fed may hike one more time in July before going on hold or even cutting rates by the end of the year.

Elsewhere on Wall Street, Adobe rose another 3.4 per cent  to add to its 5 per cent  leap from the day before following its announcement of a new artificial-intelligence offering for businesses. It joined a frenzy around AI that has sent a select group of stocks soaring, such as a 165 per cent  surge for chipmaker Nvidia so far this year.

Proponents say AI will be the next revolution to remake the economy, while critics say it is inflating the next bubble.

In the bond market, the yield on the 10-year Treasury rose to 3.74 per cent  from 3.72 per cent  late on Thursday. It helps set rates for mortgages and other important loans.

The two-year yield, which moves more on expectations for the Fed, rose to 4.62 per cent  from 4.52 per cent .

PA –  Damian J Troise and Stan Choe, Associated Press

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