Fri. Jun 21st, 2024

U.S. stocks finished mostly higher Friday, with major U.S. equity indexes booking a seventh straight week in the green in the wake of the Federal Reserve’s policy meeting.

The S&P 500 saw its longest weekly winning streak since November 2017, according to Dow Jones Market Data.

How stock indexes traded

The Dow Jones Industrial Average
closed 0.2% higher.

The S&P 500
finished about flat.

The Nasdaq Composite
ended around 0.4% higher.

What drove markets

U.S. stocks finished mostly higher Friday, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average logging at third straight record close.

Equities have broadly rallied this week after investors digested a closely-watched reading on U.S. inflation and the Federal Reserve’s latest policy statement and projections on interest rates. The Dow, S&P 500 and Nasdaq Composite logged a seventh straight week of gains.

The “more optimistic tone of markets over the last several weeks has been justified,” Russell Price, chief economist at Ameriprise Financial, said in a Friday phone call. It’s “reasonable” for the stock market to be pricing in rate cuts by the Federal Reserve in 2024, with the recent drop in 10-year Treasury yields helping to lift equities, he said.  

Price said he’s expecting the Fed may begin cutting rates in June and the U.S. economy will slow to a “sustainable” pace of growth in 2024. In his view, real gross domestic product may rise 1.8% to 1.9% next year.

Nearly all of the S&P 500’s 11 sectors are up this week, while small-capitalization stocks have seen a stronger rally than large-cap equities.

The small-cap Russell 2000 index
posted a weekly gain of more than 5%. according to preliminary data from FactSet data. The S&P 500 rose around 2.5% this week.

At his press conference on Wednesday, Fed Chair Jerome Powell gave “a nod” that inflation was on the right path and lower rates were on the horizon next year, according to Price. But when it comes to the federal-funds futures, Price said that traders appear to have gotten “too far ahead” in their bets on rate cuts.

Fed-funds futures pointed to the central bank starting to reduce its benchmark rate as soon as March, according to the CME FedWatch Tool.

Stocks hit a speed bump earlier in the session after New York Federal Reserve Bank President John Williams pushed back against rate those expectations during an interview with CNBC. “We aren’t really talking about cutting interest rates right now,” Williams said.

Inflation, as measured by the consumer-price index, slowed to a year-over-year rate of 3.1% in November, down significantly from last year’s peak of 9.1% in June.  But “it’s too early to call ‘mission accomplished’ just yet” for the Fed’s goal of bringing inflation down to its 2% target, said Price.

Still, Powell was explicit during his press conference about not needing a recession in order to cut rates, according to Nationwide’s chief of investment research Mark Hackett. “That was code for a soft landing,” Hackett said by phone Friday. 

See: Williams says the Fed isn’t ‘really talking about cutting interest rates right now’

On the economic news front Friday, the New York Fed’s Empire State manufacturing survey showed U.S. manufacturing activity continued to struggle as the gauge tumbled to a four-month low. Flash services and manufacturing PMIs from S&P affirmed that manufacturing activity remained weak, while services activity reached a five-month high.

Read: U.S. economy posts steady but lackluster growth at year’s end, S&P finds

Meanwhile, the yield on the 10-year Treasury note
fell 31.7 basis points this week to 3.927%, the largest weekly drop since November 2022, according to Dow Jones Market Data.

The S&P 500 is not far off its record close, reached Jan. 3, 2022.

“The momentum in the market is undeniably incredibly strong right now,” said Nationwide’s Hackett, though on Friday investors appeared to be taking “a natural break.”

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