By Damian J. Troise and Alex Veiga
Stocks closed broadly higher on Wall Street Wednesday and pushed major indexes into the green for the week, as investors welcomed a report showing consumer confidence is holding up better than expected.
The S&P 500 and Nasdaq composite each rose 1.5%. The Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 1.6% with a lot of help from Nike, which soared after reporting better-than-expected results.
The market got a boost from a report showing consumer confidence is surprisingly strong, despite inflation squeezing wallets. The Conference Board's consumer confidence index rose to 108.3 in December, up from 101.4 in November. The sharp rebound pushed the index to its highest level since April. Last month’s figure was the lowest since July.
“The news has delivered a kind of a sweet spot for the Federal Reserve,” said Megan Horneman, chief investment officer at Verdence Capital Management. “The consumer is staying relatively resilient.”
Consumer spending, along with the employment market, has been another strong area of the economy that has helped protect it from slipping into a recession. Wall Street has been hoping that the Fed can win its fight against inflation and avoid a recession, what economists call a “soft landing." The latest consumer confidence report raises hopes for that outcome in 2023, analysts said.
“If the consumer continues to feel good, behave in a rational way and remain employed, the window for a soft landing expands,” said Keith Buchanan, portfolio manager at Globalt Investments.
The Fed's key lending rate, the federal funds rate, stands at a range of 4.25% to 4.5%, the highest level in 15 years. Fed policymakers forecast that the rate will reach a range of 5% to 5.25% by the end of 2023. Their forecast doesn’t call for a rate cut before 2024.
Investors are worried that the Fed will go too far in raising interest rates and ultimately slow the economy so much that it slips into a recession. That has left investors closely focused on economic updates to get a better idea of how businesses and consumers are dealing with inflation.
New data released Wednesday showed the nation's housing market continued to slow last month, as sales of previously occupied homes fell for the tenth month in a row. The housing market has been a strong area of the economy, but has been tempered by rising mortgage rates. That has made an already tight housing market even more difficult for prospective homebuyers.
The government will release a closely watched monthly snapshot of consumer spending on Friday, the personal consumption expenditure price index for November. The report is monitored by the Fed as a barometer of inflation, which has been easing, but at a relatively slow pace. Economists expect the report to show that inflation continued cooling in November.
Technology companies powered a big share of the rally Wednesday. Apple rose 2.4%.
Health care and financial company stocks also helped lift the market. Eli Lilly rose 2.3% and Bank of America added 1.5%.
Nike surged 12.2% for the biggest gain among S&P 500 stocks after reporting results that trounced analysts’ estimates. FedEx rose 3.4% after reporting strong earnings. Energy stocks gained ground as U.S. crude oil prices settled 2.9% higher. Hess gained 3.1%
All told, the S&P 500 rose 56.82 points to 3,878.44. The Dow gained 526.74 points to 33,376.48. The Nasdaq rose 162.26 points to 10,709.37.
Small company stocks also gained ground. The Russell 2000 index rose 28.92 points, or 1.7%, to 1,776.94.
Treasury yields mostly fell. The yield on the 10-year Treasury, which influences mortgage rates, slipped to 3.67% from 3.69 late Tuesday.
Elaine Kurtenbach and Matt Ott contributed to this report.