The S&P 500 ended higher on Friday in a choppy trading session, as gains in defensive shares overshadowed energy declines, and investors shrugged off hawkish comments from Federal Reserve officials about interest rate hikes.
Federal Reserve Bank of Boston leader Susan Collins said that, with little evidence price pressures are waning, the Fed may need to deliver another 75-basis point rate hike as it seeks to get inflation under control.
On Thursday, St. Louis Fed President James Bullard set off equity declines when he said the Fed needs to keep raising interest rates given that its tightening so far "had only limited effects on observed inflation."
With Collins and then Bullard, "We have had some very hawkish talk, but the market has really taken it in stride," said Keith Lerner, co-chief investment officer at Trust Advisory Services. "It hasn’t hit the market to the downside like it has in the past."
According to preliminary data, the S&P 500 gained 19.79 points, or 0.50%, to end at 3,966.35 points, while the Nasdaq Composite gained 4.00 points, or 0.04%, to 11,148.96. The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 208.68 points, or 0.62%, to 33,752.64.
The S&P 500 stalled this week after a month-long rally following softer-than-expected inflation data that sparked hopes the central bank could temper its market-punishing rate hikes.
"Markets are in a bit of a holding pattern" ahead of employment and other economic data, said Lauren Goodwin, economist and portfolio strategist at New York Life Investments.
"What is driving all equities of course is Fed policy and the gravitational force that rising interest rates have on the equity complex as a whole," Goodwin said. "We are not likely to see any real evidence in terms of potentially declining wage pressure or inflation pressure for another couple of weeks.”
Defensive groups led the way among S&P 500 sectors, with utilities and healthcare rising.
The energy sector fell, as oil prices dropped, stemming from concern about weakened demand in China and further increases to U.S. interest rates.
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