U.S. stocks close higher in Nasdaq-led rally, but still see losses for the week – MarketWatch

U.S. stock indexes closed higher Friday, but still ended with losses for the week on fears over the spread of the coronavirus delta variant, the imminent tapering of Federal Reserve bond buying, and China’s restrictions on its economy.

Friday’s recovery was broad, with technology stocks among the leaders in the S&P 500 and even energy catching a bid after a withering week for the sector as oil prices slumped.

How did benchmarks trade?
  • The Dow Jones Industrial Average DJIA, +0.65% rose 225.96 points, or 0.7%, to 35,120.08 .
  • The S&P 500 SPX, +0.81% climbed 35.87 points, 0.8%, to 4,441.67.
  • The Nasdaq Composite Index COMP, +1.19% advanced 172.87 points, or 1.2%, to 14,714.66.

On Thursday, major markets ended mixed, with the S&P 500 and Nasdaq Composite registering small gains, while the small-cap Russell 2000 ended 1.2% lower.

For the week, the S&P 500 slid 0.6%, the Dow declined 1.1% and the Nasdaq Composite lost 0.7% , while the small-cap Russell 2000 index RUT, +1.65% fell 2.5%.

What drove markets?

Buy the dip for the week was in play on Friday, with investors scooping up shares of information technology SP500.45, +1.30% and turning to embattled energy SP500.10, +0.28% and financials SP500.40, +0.62%, among the worst weekly performers.

“The tidal wave of liquidity is so powerful, so vast, that the buy-the-dips mentality is the dominant force right now,” said David Donabedian, chief investment officer of CIBC Private Wealth Management, in a phone interview Friday. Information technology and communication services are among the areas leading the market in Friday’s trading, he said, similar to last year when COVID-19 was “raging” and “stay-at-home stocks” topped the charts.

The energy sector fell 7.3% this week, while financials were off 2.3%, FactSet data show. Consumer staples SP500.30, +0.18% were up 0.4% for the week, healthcare SP500.35, +0.51% climbed 1.8%, and utilities SP500.55, +1.22% gained 1.8%, which are largely defensive plays. Technology, meanwhile, erased its weekly slide.

“It’s a little difficult to get too excited about equities,” particularly U.S. large-cap, as valuations are “pretty full,” said Michael Reynolds, vice president of investment strategy at wealth-management firm Glenmede, in a phone interview Friday. But Glenmede still has an appetite for risk, he said, targeting  areas such as small-cap and international stocks as well as real estate investment trusts.

Researchers at Capital Economics said that delta’s spread continues to weigh on prices, particularly in the commodity complex. “Commodity prices mostly fell this week on the back of a stronger U.S. dollar as well as mounting concerns over the demand outlook,” Capital Economics economists wrote in a Friday note.

All week, concerns about a sharp rise in U.S. COVID cases, hospitalizations and deaths have tamped down bullishness, as the daily average of new U.S. cases over the past seven days rose to 143,827 as of Thursday, up 44% from two weeks ago and the most since Feb. 1, according to a New York Times tracker.

The change in the complexion of the viral spread is causing some Fed members to rethink tapering strategies.

Indeed, Dallas Federal Reserve President Rob Kaplan said he may reconsider his call for the central bank to quickly start to taper its monthly buying of $120 billion in Treasury and mortgage-backed securities if it looks like the spread of the coronavirus delta variant is slowing economic growth.

“It is in all of our interest to slow the spread, and right now we’re in a negative trend,” Kaplan said in an interview with Fox Business Network on Friday. Kaplan said the delta variant has caused him to have an open mind about the path of monetary policy. He called the delta variant “the big imponderable” in the outlook.

The remarks from Kaplan, who is a “more hawkish” Fed official, may be contributing to the market’s rise Friday, according to Donabedian. Just a couple of days ago, the release of the Fed policy meeting minutes had indicated “consensus to begin tapering this year,” he said, and some investors may now see the possibility that the central bank could “adjust its thinking.”

“What we’ve been telling clients is the first half of the year was nirvana,” with above-average gains and “very low market volatility,” said Baltimore-based Donabedian of CIBC Private Wealth. “We’re in a bull market, but it’s going to be a tougher slog over the second half of the year.”

The Cboe Volatility Index VIX, -14.35%, often referred to by its ticker symbol VIX, a measure of implied stock market volatility, jumped in the early hours Friday, while the U.S. dollar DXY, -0.12% reached a fresh nine-month high. The VIX was about 15% lower around the end of trading Friday, according to FactSet data.

Which companies were in focus?
  • Shares of Mudrick Capital Acquisition Corp. II MUDS fell 2.8% after the special-purpose acquisition company, or SPAC, said the merger agreement that would’ve have taken The Topps Company public has been terminated “by mutual agreement.” 
  • Shares of Deere & Co. DE, -2.10% dropped 2.1% after the construction, agriculture and turf care equipment maker reported fiscal third-quarter profit that more than doubled and was well above expectations, and raised its full-year net income outlook.
  • Foot Locker Inc. FL, +7.26% shares jumped 7.3% after the athletic retailer reported second-quarter earnings that far exceeded expectations.
  • LumiraDx Ltd. and SPAC CA Healthcare Acquisition Corp. said Friday the value of their merger deal to take LumiraDx public has been cut by 40%, citing “various considerations,” including recent market environment for publicly traded diagnostic companies and declines in COVID-19 testing volumes.
How did other assets fare?
  • The yield on the 10-year Treasury note TMUBMUSD10Y rose almost 2 basis points to 1.259% Friday, but was down 3.8 basis points for the week. Yields fall as bond prices rise.
  • The ICE U.S. Dollar Index DXY, a measure of the currency against a basket of six major rivals, was down 0.1% and traded around a nine-month high.
  • Oil futures fell for a seventh straight day, with the U.S. benchmark CL00, settling nearly 2.2% lower at $63.32 a barrel for a weekly decline of almost 9%. Gold futures GC00 rose 0.05% to settle at $1,784 an ounce.
  • In Europe, the Stoxx Europe 600 SXXP closed 0.3% higher, but was still down 1.5% for the week. London’s FTSE 100 UKX rose 0.4% , but saw a weekly decline of 1.8%.
  • In Asia, Hong Kong’s Hang Seng HK:HSI suffered another rough session, falling 1.8%, with the index now 19% below its February high on the continued regulatory crackdown in China. China on Friday passed a strict data privacy law that is due to take effect in November. Meanwhile, the Shanghai Composite SHCOMP shed 1.1% and Japan’s Nikkei 225 NIK declined 1%.

—Steve Goldstein contributed to the report.

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