By Damian J. Troise and Alex Veiga
Wall Street capped a choppy week of trading with a broad stock market rally Friday, as the S&P 500 notched its fourth consecutive weekly gain.
The benchmark index closed 1.7% higher, for a 3.3% weekly gain. The S&P 500 hadn't posted such a good stretch since November.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 1.3%, while the Nasdaq and Russell 2000 index of smaller companies both closed 2.1% higher. Each index also posted a solid weekly gain.
Technology stocks drove much the rally. Crude oil prices fell and bond yields were mixed.
Trading was choppy much of the week, but major indexes got a big bump on Wednesday after a report showed that inflation cooled more than expected last month. Another report on Thursday showed inflation at the wholesale level also slowed more than expected.
The cooler-than-expected inflation readings have bolstered hopes among investors that inflation may be close to a peak and that the Federal Reserve could less aggressively hike interest rates, its main tool for fighting inflation.
“The data that we’ve gotten this week has all been consistent with the idea that we’re in the midst of peak inflation rates on a month-to-month basis," said Scott Ladner, chief investment officer at Horizon Investments. "And that’s something that we’ve been waiting to see for months now. And it looks like, if that’s the case, then we’ve probably also seen peak Fed hawkishness.”
The S&P 500 rose 72.88 points to 4,280.15, while the Dow gained 424.38 points to 33,761.05. The Nasdaq added 267.27 points to 13,047.19.
Small-company stocks also made strong gains in a sign that investors are confident about the economy. The Russell 2000 rose 41.36 points to 2,016.62.
Around 95% of the stocks in the S&P 500 rose, with technology companies driving much of the rally. Chipmaker Nvidia rose 4.3%.
The central bank has been raising interest rates in the hopes of slowing the economy and cooling the hottest inflation in four decades, but investors are worried that it could hit the brakes too aggressively and steer the economy into a recession.
On Friday, a survey by the University of Michigan showed that consumer sentiment is stronger than economists expected. Still, inflation remains painfully high. That means the Fed is likely to remain on course with its rate hikes until it is certain that prices have peaked and are easing.
The Fed's last two increases were by 0.75 percentage points. Traders now see about a 60% chance that the central bank will raise overnight interest rates by half a percentage point at its next meeting.
“The market’s strength is based on the assumption that inflation peaked and the Fed can relax, but that may be a bit too complacent,” said Liz Ann Sonders, chief investment strategist at Charles Schwab.
The yield on the 10-year Treasury fell to 2.84% from 2.88% late Thursday. It remains below the two-year yield. That's an unusual inversion of the expectation that borrowing money for a longer period should cost more than a shorter period. When investors demand a higher return for a short term like the 2-year than a longer one like 10 years, it's viewed by some investors as a reliable signal of a pending recession. The economy has already contracted for two consecutive quarters.
Next week the Commerce Department releases its retail sales report for July and retail giant Walmart reports its latest financial results.
Investors can also assess the health of the housing market when they get a report on home sales for July and the latest earnings from Home Depot.
Updated on August 12, 2022, at 5:03 p.m. ET.