S&P 500, Nasdaq Set for All-Time Closing Highs as Powell Sooths Taper Worries

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NEW YORK—Wall Street advanced on Friday as Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell’s remarks at the Jackson Hole Symposium calmed fears over the tapering timetable and sent investors into the weekend in a buying mood.

All three major U.S. stock indexes extended their gains after Powell’s statement was released, and put the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq on track to notch record closing highs.

All three indexes were set to post weekly gains.

In his prepared remarks, Powell stopped short of providing a clearer picture regarding the timing of the central bank’s tapering of asset purchases or hiking interest rates, the key elements of its dovish monetary policy aimed at helping the economy recover from the pandemic recession.

“What (Powell) said seemed to be inline with universal expectations, that he wasn’t going to say much,” said Tom Martin, senior portfolio manager at GLOBALT Investments in Atlanta. “He did confirm that a taper beginning this year is definitely on the table.”

Wall Street’s reaction “signifies that the market is okay with the way the Fed is being very careful regarding the taper,” Martin added.

Indeed, Powell appeared to strike a more dovish tone than other Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) officials, including St. Louis Fed President James Bullard and Cleveland Fed President Loretta Mester, who said earlier in the day that they expect the tapering process to begin soon and wind down next year.

Economic data released on Friday delivered, in large part, precisely what economists expected—a pullback in consumer spending and sentiment due to the COVID-19 Delta variant, and signs that the current wave of price spikes will not morph into long term inflation, inline with Fed assurances.

“We’re watching carefully the economic impact of the COVID variant,” GLOBALT’s Martin said. “We’re not seeing a gangbuster (economic) reopening, but we’re also not closing down.”

The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 240.18 points, or 0.68 percent, to 35,453.3, the S&P 500 gained 39.15 points, or 0.88 percent, to 4,509.15 and the Nasdaq Composite added 184.01 points, or 1.23 percent, to 15,129.81.

Nine of the 11 major sectors of the S&P 500 were green, with energy shares enjoying the largest percentage gain.

Apparel retailer Gap Inc advanced 1.9 percent following its full-year net sales forecast hike.

Chipmaker Nvidia’s shares rose 2.4 percent after sources said it would likely seek antitrust approval from the European Union to take over British chip designer Arm.

Workday Inc jumped 10.2 percent as brokerages upped their price targets for the stock after the company beat second-quarter revenue estimates.

Stay-at-home darling Peloton Interactive Inc slid 6.7 percent following its profit warning and its announcement was being probed by U.S. regulators over an accident involving the safety of its treadmills.

Beijing continued its crackdown on its tech companies, threatening to curb their ability to list on U.S. exchanges.

U.S.-listed shares of Alibaba Group and Tencent Music Entertainment fell 3.9 percent and 1.1 percent, respectively, while the Invesco Golden Dragon ETF dropped 1.4 percent.

Advancing issues outnumbered declining ones on the NYSE by a 5.19-to-1 ratio; on Nasdaq, a 3.72-to-1 ratio favored advancers.

The S&P 500 posted 59 new 52-week highs and one new low; the Nasdaq Composite recorded 111 new highs and 30 new lows.

By Stephen Culp


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