Dow edges higher, attempts 8th straight gain after U.S. retail sales report

  • Written by MarketWatch
  • Published in Economics

U.S. stocks were steady Friday afternoon, after an up trend that has put the Dow and S&P 500 within striking distance of fresh all-time highs as Sino-American trade tensions ease and central banks support risk taking with economic stimulus measures.

How are the major benchmarks performing?

The Dow Jones Industrial Average DJIA, +0.21%[1] rose 56 points, or 0.2%, at 27,236, the S&P 500 SPX, -0.03%[2] fell 2 points, or 0.1%, to 3,008, while the Nasdaq Composite Index COMP, -0.15%[3] retreated 16 points, or 0.2%.

On Thursday, the Dow rose 45.41 points, or 0.2%, to close at 27,182.45, notching a seventh advance and the longest series of gains for the blue-chip index since an eight-session rally ended May 14, 2018, according to FactSet data. Meanwhile, the S&P 500 index added 8.64 points, or 0.3%, to finish at 3,009.57, while the Nasdaq Composite Index advanced 24.79 points, or 0.3%, to end at 8,194.47.

Thursday’s action left the Dow 0.6% from its record at 27,359.16 hit on July 15, while the S&P 500 was 0.5% from its all-time high at 3,025.86 set on July 26. The Nasdaq ended the day 1.6% from its all-time closing high at 8,330.21 also hit on July 26.

What’s driving the market?

Retail sales grew faster than expected in August,[4] up 0.4%, and were up 4.1% year-on-year, the U.S. Commerce Department said on Friday. The rise was driven entirely by purchases of new cars and trucks though, as retail sales ex-autos were flat. Strong demand for big-ticket items like automobiles suggests the U.S. consumer remains confident about his future prospects.

“This morning’s number is above expectations but more importantly it’s the sixth straight month of positive growth for retail sales which is a really encouraging,” wrote Mike Loewengart, vice president of investment strategy at E-Trade Financial in an email. “With holiday spending on the horizon and inflation at bay, we could continue to see momentum in the retail sector. A healthy consumer can help inject some energy into other sectors of the economy.”

“That said, trade tensions are a key focal point and rising tariffs between the US and China could threaten this critical indicator, Loewengart added.

Softening trade tensions between the U.S. and China[5], with the hope of formal negotiations restarting early next month, and easy-money policies being undertaken by global central banks have all helped to momentarily quell many investors’s fears that a near-term recession will grip the U.S. economy....

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