U.S. stock indexes traded higher Friday, potentially halting a four-session string of losses, as investors weighed COVID-19 vaccine mandates announced by President Joe Biden to fight the coronavirus delta variant that some worry is slowing the economic recovery.
How are stock-index futures trading?
- The Dow Jones Industrial Average was trading 70 points, or 0.2%, higher to reach 34,957.
- The S&P 500 gained about 14 points, or 0.3%, to about 4,508
- The Nasdaq Composite Index rose 86 points, or 0.6%, to 15,334
On Thursday, the Dow industrials fell 151.69 points, or 0.4%, to end at 34,879.38, the S&P 500 index closed down 20.79 points, or 0.5%, to 4,493.28, and the Nasdaq Composite Index finished at 15,248.25, a loss of 38.38 points, or 0.3%.
The Dow and the S&P 500 have seen four straight days of losses, the longest losing streak for both since June 18, according to Dow Jones Market Data.
What’s driving the market?
The bulls were back in force early Friday to cap a holiday-shortened week that has seen stocks suffer losses for four consecutive days and may result in losses for a second week.
The week’s slump comes amid concerns about the impact of the delta variant of the coronavirus on global economic growth in recent months.
Biden on Thursday announced new vaccine mandates, including a requirement that executive-branch employees as well as federal contractors vaccinate, with no test alternative. He is also discussing a Labor Department rule requiring businesses with 100 or more workers to ensure their employees are vaccinated or show a negative test result weekly or more frequently.
The U.S. is averaging just under 150,000 new cases a day, with 53% of the population fully vaccinated, which is well behind many countries in Europe and Canada, according to a New York Times tracker.
While the focus is on rising COVID cases, markets are also watching the Federal Reserve for the timing of the tapering its bond-buying purchases. Recent comments by policy makers have suggested to some that the Federal Reserve could announce its tapering plan sooner rather than later. Investors will have to wait until Sept. 21-22 for the next Federal Open Market Committee meeting. However, there is already speculation that the Fed will set the stage at its next meeting for an announcement of a plan to taper its monthly asset purchases at its November gathering, according to The Wall Street Journal.
Meanwhile, a report on wholesale inflation came in hotter than expected. The U.S. producer-price index rose 0.7% in August, the Labor Department said Friday, down from a 1% jump in July but up from average forecast of economists polled by WSJ for a 0.6% rise.
A number of Fed officials have described inflation as short-lived and economists are starting to talk about prices peaking in the wholesale sector. However, producers are still struggling with shortages, bottlenecks and transportation woes.
“We expect major central banks to remain supportive of growth, keeping rates lower for longer. This is positive for equity markets, particularly cyclical and value areas of the market,” said Mark Haefele, chief investment officer at UBS Global Wealth Management, to clients in a note on Friday.
The European Central Bank said on Thursday that it would conduct asset purchases under its pandemic emergency purchase program, or PEPP, at a “moderately slower pace” after accelerating purchases in recent quarters.
Sentiment also appeared to be getting a lift from geopolitics, with broad gains across Asia after a phone call between Biden and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping. “The call lasted 90 minutes with both sides putting their own spin on the call, although the civilized tone seemed to serve as a general boost to risk sentiment overnight,” said Saxo Bank’s chief investment officer, Steen Jakobsen, in a note to clients.
Which companies are in focus?
- Shares of Echo Global Logistics Inc. ECHO rocketed higher Friday, after the transportation and supply chain company announced an agreement to be acquired by private equity firm The Jordan Company L.P. in a deal valued at $1.3 billion.
- Kroger Co. KR reported second-quarter net income totaling $467 million, or 61 cents per share, down from $819 million, or $1.03 per share last year.
- Wells Fargo Corp. WFC, +1.23% shares rose on Friday despite a $250 million civil penalty from the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency for not meeting requirements of its 2018 action against the bank.
- Shares of Bumble Inc. BMBL traded lower Friday, after the dating app said the size of the previously announced stock offering increased by 20%, and announced the pricing of the offering at $54.00 a share.
- Vista Outdoor Inc. VSTO announced Friday an agreement to buy San Diego-based golf performance analysis and game enhancement company Foresight Sports for $474 million.
- Children’s clothing brand OshKosh B’gosh has partnered with lifestyle brand Kith for a 28-piece capsule collection that will be available on Friday at all Kith stores, the Kidset website and Kith’s European e-commerce site. OshKosh B’gosh, a 126 year-old brand, is part of the Carter’s Inc. CRI portfolio.
How are other assets trading?
- The 10-year Treasury note rose 2 basis points to 1.32%. Yields and debt prices move in opposite directions.
- The dollar was trading 0.1% lower, as measured by the ICE U.S. Dollar Index which stood at around 92.34.
- Gold futures were on the rise, with the December contract up 0.2% to $1,803 an ounce.
- Oil futures rose, with West Texas Intermediate crude up 1.7% at $69.25 a barrel.
- The Hang Seng rose 1.9%. Elsewhere in Asia, the Shanghai Composite closed 0.3% higher and Japan’s Nikkei 225 NIK advanced 1.2%.
- European equities were mostly higher, with the Stoxx Europe 600 rising 0.6% and the FTSE 100 gaining 0.4%.
Video: ECB leaves rates unchanged, to scale back asset purchases (CNBC)