Business

Stock markets end week on high note, after weeks of declines

Stocks buck downward trend and ended the week up as investors speculate central banks may not have to be as aggressive about raising interest rates as earlier thought.

The S&P 500 had its best day in two years and its second winning week in the last three months

Traders work on the trading floor at the New York Stock Exchange in New York City in this file photo from May 20. (Andrew Kelly/Reuters)

Stocks racked up more gains on Wall Street Friday, as the S&P 500 had its best day in two years and just its second week of increases in the last 12 to provide a bit of relief from the market's brutal sell-off this year.

The benchmark index rose 3.1 per cent, with technology and banks leading the broad rally. The S&P 500 notched a 6.4 per cent gain for the week, erasing the brutal loss it took a week earlier, though it's still close to 20 per cent below its record set early this year.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 2.7 per cent and the tech-heavy Nasdaq ended 3.3 per cent higher. Both indexes also posted a weekly gain that more than made up for their losses last week.

Stocks rallied this week as investors speculate the Federal Reserve may not have to be as aggressive about raising interest rates as earlier thought as it fights to control inflation.

The gains are a reprieve from Wall Street's tumble through most of the year, caused by the Fed's and other central banks' slamming into reverse the monetary support put into markets through the pandemic. In hopes of beating down punishingly high inflation, central banks have raised interest rates and made other moves that hurt prices for investments and threaten to slow the economy enough to cause a recession. Many economists predict further moves.

"It has been a good week," said Randy Frederick, managing director of trading and derivatives at Charles Schwab. "It's rare. At least in 2022, we've had only a couple of weeks where we ended up net positive. It looks pretty similar to what we saw right around the end of May, and that one of course fizzled out."

The S&P 500 rose 116.01 points to 3,911.74. The Dow climbed 823.32 points to 31,500.68. The Nasdaq rose 375.43 points to 11,607.62.

Consumer sentiment at record low

Parts of the U.S. economy are still red-hot, particularly the jobs market, but some discouraging signals have emerged recently.

A report on Friday confirmed sentiment among consumers sank to its lowest point since the University of Michigan began keeping records, hurt in particular by high inflation.

Another lowlight this week suggested the U.S. manufacturing and services sectors aren't as strong as economists thought.

Such weakening data raise worries about the strength of the economy. But they also can be good for financial markets, as paradoxical as that may seem.

They could mean less consumer demand fuelling inflation, which would ultimately mean the Federal Reserve doesn't have to raise rates so aggressively. And interest rates drive trading for everything from stocks to cryptocurrencies.

"We have seen a cooling off in a lot of areas, certainly. Gasoline purchases are down, housing prices appear to be cooling across the board," Frederick said. "To me all of this speaks to the fact what the Fed is doing now appears to at least be having some impact. Now, whether or not it's sufficient to bring inflation down, I don't think we know yet."

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