Saturday, April 20, 2024

Stock market today: Wall Street’s latest winning month is drawing to a calm close

by Associated Press

Stocks are drifting as Wall Street rolls toward the close of another winning month. The S&P 500 was 0.1% higher Monday and on track for a fifth straight month of gains. It’s also close to its highest level in nearly 16 months after rallying on hopes cooling inflation will mean the economy can avoid a recession. The Dow was up 10 points, or less than 0.1%, and the Nasdaq was 0.3% higher. Critics have said the rally has come too quickly. Several reports this week could back them up, including updates on the job market and profits at the market’s most influential companies.

Shares were mixed in Europe after data released Monday showed Europe’s economy has grown modestly after months of stagnation.

The 20 countries that use the euro currency and their 346 million people saw 0.3% growth in the April-to-June period, compared with the first three months of the year, the EU statistics agency Eurostat said.

That’s a slight improvement over zero growth in the first quarter and a slight decline in fourth quarter of last year.

Germany’s DAX was up 0.1% while the CAC 40 in Paris gained 0.5% and Britain’s FTSE 100 was essentially unchanged.

Another heavy slate of corporate earnings will consume markets this week, with Pfizer, Starbucks, CVS Health, Amazon, Apple and Airbnb all releasing financial results in the coming days.

In Asia, most markets logged gains Monday on hopes for more stimulus from Beijing for the sluggish Chinese economy.

Worries over China’s slowdown have tempered optimism recently over the possibility that inflation is cooling enough to get the Federal Reserve to stop hiking interest rates.

Adding to pressure on the ruling Communist Party to reverse an economic slowdown, Chinese factory activity contracted in July as export orders shrank, a survey showed,

A purchasing managers’ index issued by the national statistics agency and an industry group improved to 49.3 from June’s 49 on a 100-point scale but was below the 50-point level that shows activity contracting.

“The PMI surveys suggest that China’s economic recovery continued to lose momentum in July,” Julian Evans-Pritchard of Capital Economics said in a commentary. “Looking forward, policy support is needed to prevent China’s economy from slipping into a recession, not least because external headwinds look set to persist for a while longer.”

The Hang Seng in Hong Kong rose 0.8% to 20,078.94, while the Shanghai Composite index advanced 0.5% to 3,291.04.

Tokyo’s Nikkei 225 index closed 1.3% higher at 33,172.22. In Seoul, the Kospi climbed 0.9% to 2,632.58.

Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 edged 0.1% higher, to 7,410.40 and the SET in Bangkok was up 0.8%. The Sensex in India rose 0.4% to 66,419.66.

Wall Street closed out another winning week on Friday, as the S&P 500 rose 1%. The Dow added 0.5% and the Nasdaq climbed 1.9% as Big Tech stocks led the market.

If inflation is cooling enough to get the Federal Reserve to stop hiking interest rates, that might allow the economy to continue growing and avoid a long-predicted recession.

Though critics say the stock market’s rally may have gone too far, too fast, hopes for a halt to rate hikes helped technology stocks and others seen as big beneficiaries from easier rates to rally.

A report on Friday showed the inflation measure the Fed prefers to use slowed last month by a touch more than expected. Data also showed total compensation for workers rose less than expected during the spring. While that’s discouraging for workers, investors see it adding less upward pressure on inflation.

The hope among traders is that the slowdown in inflation means Wednesday’s hike to interest rates by the Federal Reserve will be the final one of this cycle. The federal funds rate has leaped to a level between 5.25% and 5.50%, up from virtually zero early last year. High interest rates work to lower inflation by slowing the entire economy and hurting prices for stocks and other investments.

In other trading Monday, U.S. benchmark crude oil gained 81 cents to $81.39 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It gained 49 cents to $80.58 on Friday.

Brent crude, the international standard, added 67 cents to $85.08 a barrel.

The U.S. dollar rose to 142.23 Japanese yen from Friday’s 141.01 yen. The euro was at $1.1026, up from $1.1019.

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