NEW YORK-Wall Street stocks finished a volatile week on a sunny note late Friday, pushing higher after investors judged Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell’s latest speech as devoid of negative bombshells.
Powell told a central banker summit in Wyoming that the Fed was prepared to raise interest rates again. But he also vowed to proceed “carefully” going forward, stressing that the Fed would determine its course based on economic data. After opening higher, US stocks tumbled into the red after Powell’s remarks while European indices also pulled back. But the market in New York later rebounded and finished the day near session highs, with the S&P 500 adding 0.7 percent.
“Seemingly resigned to accept what it heard in the speech at its unsurprising face value, the stock market regrouped and got back on a winning track,” Briefing.com said in a note. “There is always fear before he talks,” said Maris Ogg of Tower Bridge Advisors, who described Powell’s speech as without bombshells. But Ogg said investors are “just going back and forth” about what comes next for the economy and whether there will be a recession. After 11 rate hikes in fewer than 18 months, the US benchmark lending rate now sits at a range between 5.25 percent and 5.5 percent -- its highest level for 22 years. While the US economy has so far remained resilient in the face of higher interest rates, growth has been slowing and both companies and consumers have been feeling the impact.
Investors have been increasingly hoping that Fed policymakers might hold off on further hikes as their impact on the economy is not immediate, and that rates may come down early next year. “While another rate hike in the cycle is still far from certain -- I’m still of the view they’re done -- traders are increasingly accepting that they will likely stay there longer than they’ve expected at any point in the tightening cycle,” said Craig Erlam, senior market analyst at the Oanda trading platform. The other notable speech on Friday came from European Central Bank president Christine Lagarde, who stressed the need to set interest rates at “sufficiently restrictive levels” for as long as required to bring inflation to a two percent target, according to prepared remarks.