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Market Snapshot: U.S. stocks end higher, Nasdaq scores biggest weekly gain since March


U.S. stocks ended higher Friday, with the technology-heavy Nasdaq Composite scoring its biggest weekly gain since March, after major indexes on Thursday logged their strongest session since 2020 on the back of a softer-than-expected inflation report.

How stocks traded

The Dow Jones Industrial Average

rose 32.49 points, or 0.1%, to close at 33,747.86.

The S&P 500

gained 36.56 points, or 0.9% to finish at 3,992.93.

The Nasdaq Composite jumped 209.18 points, or 1.9%, to end at 11,323.33.

For the week, the Dow rose 4.1%, the S&P 500 gained 5.9% and the Nasdaq jumped 8.1%, according to Dow Jones Market Data. That marked the tech-heavy Nasdaq’s biggest weekly percentage gain since March, while the S&P 500 booked its best week since June.

What drove markets

U.S. stocks finished higher Friday, rising amid optimism over easing inflation.

“Investors are trying to sniff out peak Fed hawkishness,” said Karim El Nokali, an investment strategist at Schroders, in a phone interview Friday. “It’s been an extremely quick rate-hiking cycle and maybe we’re close to the end, which certainly the market likes.”

While the Federal Reserve is expected to continue raising interest rates to combat the high cost of living in the U.S., investors are weighing whether the pace of those rate rises could begin to moderate after inflation in October showed signs of easing, according to El Nokali.

After a string of jumbo, 75 basis point rate hikes by the Fed, it appears “we’re looking at 50 basis points in December, and hopefully, maybe a series of 25 basis point hikes next year as they kind of pause and let the rate hikes work through the market,” he said. “I do think we’ve seen peak inflation.”

Market analysts including Tom Lee, director of research at Fundstrat, said stocks could continue to rally if October’s inflation report proves to be a turning point in the Fed’s inflation battle after price pressures intensified to their strongest level in more than four decades over the summer.

Data released on Thursday showed the headline consumer-price index rose by a slower-than-forecast 7.7% year-over-year in October, while core inflation also came in at a slower-than-expected 6.3%.

The report triggered a spectacular bounce across asset classes, with the S&P 500 index jumping 5.5% on Thursday, its best daily percentage gain since April 2020, and 2-year Treasury yields

seeing their biggest daily decline since September 2008.

Read:‘Real big sigh of relief’: Stock, bond ETFs jump on inflation report while investors eye equal-weighted strategies

Fed funds futures expect the Fed’s benchmark interest rate will peak in the first quarter of next year, moving up the timeline for a potential “pause.”

“The cool inflation print should mean the beginning of the end for inflation fears, and the Fed will feel much more comfortable ramping down. Indeed this is the kind of number that lifts all ships, as investors were not even close to being positioned for this type of inflation retreat,” said Stephen Innes, managing partner at SPI Asset Management.

Stocks have been roiled in 2022 as the Fed hiked its policy interest rate by 3.75 percentage points in the space of less than nine months in service of its inflation fight. The S&P 500 is down around 16% so far this year.

Schroders analyst El Nokali said he expects the S&P 500 will probably continue to be “choppy” in a range of 3,200 to 4,100, as the geopolitical outlook remains “murky” concerning the Russia-Ukraine war and elements of inflation remain “sticky” even as it declines.

“It’s tough to get too bullish because valuations aren’t overly compelling,” he said. “I think the question will be what kind of elevated inflation rate is the Fed willing to tolerate,” he added, as it’s “unlikely” to fall to the central bank’s 2% target “anytime soon.”

Meanwhile, consumer sentiment in the U.S. has soured this month amid still high inflation, according to the University of Michigan’s gauge. The school’s index of consumer sentiment fell to 54.7, from 59.9 in October. The November reading is below the forecast of 59.5 from economists polled by the Wall Street Journal.

Consumers’ inflation expectations for the next year rose to 5.1%, from 5% last month, the University of Michigan’s survey shows. Five-year inflation expectations rose to 3%, from 2.9% in October.

“You have consumers that are really under pressure,” said Katie Nixon, chief investment officer for Northern Trust Wealth Management, in a phone Friday. “This economy remains really vulnerable.”

The U.S. stock market was rising amid thinned trading volumes Friday, as the U.S. government bond market is closed for the Veterans Day holiday.

Outside the U.S., news that China was easing its COVID-19 curbs contributed to a still-optimistic tone in markets, sending crude-oil futures and copper prices higher. West Texas Intermediate crude for December delivery

rose 2.9% Friday to settle at $88.96 a barrel.

Companies in focus

Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc.

shares jumped 7.2% after Deutsche Bank upgraded the stock to buy from hold.

Duolingo Inc.

shares tumbled more than 13% after the language class provider reported revenue for its most recent quarter that fell short of analyst forecasts.

Intel Corp.

rose around 2.3% after the chip maker’s stock was rated underweight in resumed coverage at JPMorgan Chase.

Coinbase Global Inc.

soared 12.8% after Piper Sandler reiterated its overweight rating on the stock, calling it well positioned to weather a prolonged crypto winter.

—Jamie Chisholm contributed to this report.

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