Wall Street's rough week heads for quiet end

A rough week on Wall Street dominated by worries about a weakening economy ended Friday with a broad rally that gave the market its best day in two weeks.

Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange. (Seth Wenig / Associated Press)

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Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange. (Seth Wenig / Associated Press)

The Standard & Poor’s 500 rose 1.9%. Despite the gains, the benchmark index still ended with its first weekly loss in the last three. The Dow Jones industrial average rose 1% and the Nasdaq composite closed 2.7% higher.


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Technology and communication services stocks powered much of the gains as investors cheered another big quarterly surge in Netflix’s subscribers. Remarks from a Federal Reserve official also helped build hope among investors that the central bank may decide to slow its pace of interest rate hikes as soon as next month.

The major indexes started the week in the red largely because of worries that the economy may not be able to avoid a scarring recession. Several reports on the economy came in weaker than expected, as the full weight of the Federal Reserve’s interest rate increases last year start to make their way through the system.

Not long ago, bad news on the economy was often perversely good news for Wall Street. That’s because investors took it to mean the Fed may ease up on its rate hikes. But bad news about the economy is increasingly becoming bad news for Wall Street, too, which now sees it as increasing the risk of a recession.

Making things more complicated, several Fed officials through the week kept pounding the message that they’ll probably raise rates further and hold them there a while to make sure the nation’s high inflation is really crushed. Even though inflation has begun to slow, pressure remains from a still-solid U.S. job market and other factors.

Many investors came into this week already forecasting a modest or short recession, but they also were hoping for rate cuts by the Fed later this year that could mean a rebound for markets. This week’s sour economic data and comments from central bankers threaten such hopes.

But on Friday, Fed Gov. Christopher Waller said he favors an increase of just a quarter of a point Feb. 1, when the central bank gives its next interest rate policy update. Waller also said that rates are already high enough to be slowing the economy. The remarks might have helped calm worries in the markets about rising rates.

“It’s important when you hear Federal Reserve members endorsing that,” said Quincy Krosby, chief equity strategist at LPL Financial.

Gains for tech-oriented stocks accounted for a big share of the S&P 500′s rally Friday. Google’s parent company said it was cutting costs by laying off 12,000 workers, and Netflix reported a surge in its subscriber base.

Netflix’s surprising report late Thursday helped set the stage for Friday’s rally, because the market had feared the streaming service’s latest results would be disappointing and fuel worries about weaker earnings overall, said Jay Hatfield, chief executive of Infrastructure Capital Advisors.

“When they started rocketing, then all the Nasdaq started moving, and that moves the S&P and everything else follows,” Hatfield said.

Alphabet rose 5.3% after becoming the latest large tech company to acknowledge it expanded too quickly in recent years amid a boom created by the pandemic. Netflix jumped 8.5%.

Cruise lines also notched gains. Carnival rose 3.5%, Norwegian Cruise Lines climbed 4.5% and Royal Caribbean added 3.6%.

Also influencing the market on Friday: the expiration of $797 billion in stock option contracts. That’s the largest amount for single stock options since January 2022 and the fourth-largest on record, according to Goldman Sachs.

Treasury yields mostly rose, clawing back drops from earlier in the week driven by worries about a weakening economy. The yield on the 10-year Treasury, which helps set rates for mortgages and other important loans, rose to 3.48% from 3.40% late Thursday.

The two-year yield, which tends to more closely track expectations for Fed action, rose to 4.19% from 4.13%.

All told, the S&P 500 rose 73.76 points to 3,972.61. The Dow advanced 330.93 points to 33,375.49. The Nasdaq added 288.17 points to close at 11,140.43.

Small-company stocks also notched solid gains. The Russell 2000 index rose 30.99 points, or 1.7%, to 1,867.34.

Stock markets overseas mostly made modest gains.

The Nikkei 225 added 0.6% after Japan reported that its consumer inflation rate hit 4% in December, its highest level in 41 years. The high reading may add to pressures on the Bank of Japan to alter its long-standing policy of keeping its key interest rate at an ultra-low level of minus 0.1%. But economists expect price pressures to ease in coming months as inflation elsewhere declines.

AP business writers Joe McDonald and Matt Ott contributed to this report.

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.

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