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Stock market today: Wall Street closes its 12th winning week in the last 13 with a mixed finish

By STAN CHOE, AP Business Writer
Published: January 26, 2024, 1:05pm

NEW YORK (AP) — Wall Street closed out its latest winning week with a mixed finish on Friday, as drops for technology stocks dragged on the market.

The S&P 500 slipped 3.19 points, or 0.1%, to 4,890.97. It’s the first decline for the index after a six-day winning streak led it to set record highs for five straight days.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 60.30, or 0.2%, to 38,109.43. The weakness for tech stocks, meanwhile, dragged the Nasdaq composite to a loss of 55.13, or 0.4%, to 15,455.36.

Intel led chip stocks lower even though it reported stronger profit for the last three months of 2023 than analysts expected. It dropped 11.9% after giving forecasts for revenue and profit for the start of 2024 that fell short of Wall Street’s estimates.

KLA, a supplier for the chip industry, also dragged on tech stocks despite reporting better quarterly results than expected. It sank 6.6% after saying it still sees market conditions as challenging in the near term and giving a forecast for upcoming revenue that fell short of analysts’ estimates.

The U.S. stock market nevertheless closed out another winning week as reports keep suggesting inflation is cooling while the economy continues to power higher. The unexpected backdrop has hopes high that Wall Street’s dream scenario can come true: one where a resilient economy drives profits higher for companies, while inflation moderates enough to get the Federal Reserve to cut interest rates many times this year.

The latest report on Friday showed the measure of inflation the Fed prefers to use behaved just about exactly as expected in December. Overall inflation by that measure was 2.6% during the month, matching November’s rate.

The Fed pays more attention to the inflation figure after ignoring prices for food and fuel, which can zigzag sharply month to month. That figure cooled to 2.9% from 3.2% and was a bit better than economists expected.

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At the same time, spending by U.S. consumers strengthened by more in December than expected. That helped calm worries that a resilient U.S. economy, which has so far refused to fall into a long-predicted recession, would mean upward pressure on inflation.

The expectation is for the labor market to soften some in upcoming months, which would further cool pressure on inflation, but not enough to halt the economy’s growth. That has the market looking forward to what EY Chief Economist Gregory Daco calls “the ‘holy grail’ of non-inflationary growth.”

Treasury yields yo-yoed in the bond market following the report but later rose modestly. The yield on the 10-year Treasury edged up to 4.13% from 4.12% late Thursday.

The Federal Reserve’s next meeting next week will likely end with no change to interest rates, but traders are split on whether it could begin cutting rates in March. That would be a sharp turnaround from the last two years, when the Fed hiked its main interest rate to the highest level since 2001. It’s trying to slow the economy and hurt investment prices enough through high interest rates to get inflation fully under control.

Traders are betting the Fed will cut interest rates as many as six times this year, according to data from CME Group. That would be double what the Fed itself has indicated.

Critics say that overzealousness may be setting financial markets up for disappointment after their big rallies in recent months.

For now, though, the mood is still mostly ebullient on Wall Street.

American Express jumped 7.1% for the biggest gain in the S&P 500, even though it reported weaker results for the latest quarter than expected. It gave forecasts for revenue and profit for the full year of 2024 that were stronger than analysts’, while also announcing plans to boost its dividend payout to investors.

Colgate-Palmolive climbed 2% after the company in control of more than 40% of the global toothpaste market reported stronger profit and revenue for the latest quarter than analysts forecast.

JetBlue Airways rose 3.6% after it said it may end its bid to buy rival Spirit Airlines as soon as this weekend. A federal judge has already blocked the deal because of worries it could lead to higher fares for customers, which both airlines had said they intended to appeal.

Spirit’s stock tumbled 13.4% to bring its loss for the year so far to nearly 62%.

In stock markets abroad, indexes were higher across much of Europe but mixed in Asia.

Hong Kong’s Hang Seng slumped 1.6% to give back some of its strong gain for the week, which was spurred by Chinese authorities’ moves to stabilize markets and the world’s second-largest economy. Japan’s Nikkei 225 fell 1.3% to pare its big gain for the year so far.