Stocks post solid gains as technology shares lead rally

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Stocks are solidly higher after shaking off an early stumble Friday, though the S&P 500 is still heading for a fourth straight week of losses amid Wall Street’s September swoon.

The S&P 500 rose 1.6 percent after flip-flopping between small gains and losses a few times in the early going. Technology companies powered much of the broad rally, extending the market’s gains from a day earlier. Stocks have been erratic recently, and indexes have taken several sharp turns in momentum each day.

The benchmark index is still on pace for a loss of 0.6 percent this week, which would give the S&P 500 its first four-week losing streak in more than a year. The decline for September is about 6 percent, following five straight months of gains.

The S&P 500 came within striking distance of a 10 percent drop from its all-time high earlier this week, what Wall Street calls a correction. Friday’s gains reflect, in part, traders taking advantage of the selling to snap up stocks at lower prices, said David Lyon, global investment specialist at J.P. Morgan Private Bank.

“You’re getting a market that got close to a 10 percent correction, so you’re starting to see buyers step in to buy the dip,” Lyon said.

Fund managers also tend to make moves toward the end of a quarter to bolster their portfolios, another reason for the end-of-the-week buying spree, he said.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 337 points, or 1.3 percent, at 27,155, as of 3:36 p.m. Eastern time Friday, and the Nasdaq composite was 2.2 percent higher.

Smaller stocks were also higher, and the Russell 2000 index of small-cap stocks was up 1.8 percent.

Stocks have struggled this month amid a long list of concerns. Chief among them is that stocks may have gotten too expensive following their record-breaking run through the summer, after storming 60 percent higher. Critics say Big Tech stocks in particular rose too high, even after accounting for their tremendous growth even as the coronavirus weakened the economy.

“This week, and the month of September, is really what we’re calling the give-back month,” Lyon said. “(Stock) valuations got expensive and this is a natural settling of the market, kind of giving back some of those advance returns that were probably ahead of themselves.”

Big Tech stocks were higher after falling earlier. Apple was up 3.5 percent. Microsoft rose 2.3 percent, and Google’s parent company was up 1.2 percent.

Traders also bid up shares in cruise lines. Norwegian Cruise Line was among the biggest gainers in the S&P 500, vaulting 12.5 percent. Carnival jumped 9.2 percent and Royal Caribbean Group climbed 7.5 percent.

Recently, investors’ frustration has also grown with the inability of Congress to deliver more aid to the economy after weekly unemployment benefits and other stimulus expired.

Democrats in the House of Representatives are paring back their proposal for stimulus in hopes of jumpstarting talks with the White House, but investors are skeptical something can happen soon. Deep partisan divisions have kept Congress from acting, and tensions are on the rise due to the sudden vacancy on the Supreme Court following the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

President Donald Trump has also declined to guarantee a peaceful transfer of power if he loses the upcoming election, though other Republicans have pushed back on that idea.

“This stimulus deal needs to go through,” Stephen Innes of AxiCorp said in a commentary. “With the risks building up everywhere you look, it doesn’t seem to be a great time to be trying to pick the bottom of equity markets, but a stimulus relief bill will go a long way to nudging the market along.”

Yet another report on Friday suggested that the economy’s recovery is slowing without the support from Capitol Hill. Growth for U.S. orders of machinery and other long-lasting goods was just 0.4 percent last month, down from 11.7 percent in July. The figure on durable goods was much weaker than economists had forecast, though several said they saw a mixed picture underneath the headline numbers.

Among other concerns for markets are rising tensions between the United States and China and the possibility that investors’ expectations for a COVID-19 vaccine arriving early next year may prove to be too optimistic.

On top of all the market’s concerns are the pandemic and worries that worsening trends could lead to more profit-choking restrictions on businesses. Novavax surged 11.9 percent after it said it began a late stage trial of its potential COVID-19 vaccine in the United Kingdom.

Investors pulled $22.8 billion out of stock funds in the week ending Sept. 23, the largest outflow since March, according to a BofA Global Research report.

Wall Street’s rally started in late March after the Federal Reserve and Congress pledged massive amounts of support for the economy. Budding economic improvements later in the spring helped accelerate the gains as widespread shutdown orders lifted.

The Fed has pledged to continue to hold short-term rates at nearly zero for years, but its chair Jerome Powell said repeatedly in testimony on Capitol Hill this week that the recovery will likely need more help from Congress as well.

In Europe, stocks closed mostly lower. Germany’s DAX lost 1.1 percent, and France’s CAC 40 fell 0.7 percent. The FTSE 100 in London rose 0.3 percent.

In Asia, Japan’s Nikkei 225 rose 0.5 percent and South Korea’s Kospi added 0.3 percent. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng fell 0.3 percent, and stocks in Shanghai slipped 0.1 percent.

The yield on the 10-year Treasury fell to 0.65 percent from 0.66 percent late Thursday.


AP Business Writer Yuri Kageyama contributed.

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