U.S. stock benchmarks traded higher Friday, with major benchmarks set to deliver solid gains for the week and the S&P 500 within striking distance of record territory.
Market participants are watching for updates on Hurricane Florence, which was already wreaking havoc on the Carolinas coastline.
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What are the main benchmarks doing?
The Dow Jones Industrial Average DJIA, +0.04% rose 48 points, or 0.2%, to 26,194, while S&P 500 index SPX, +0.01% gained 3 points, or 0.1%, to 2,907. Stronger gains were seen for Nasdaq Composite Index COMP, +0.21% which rose 18 points, or 0.3%, to 8,031.
On Thursday, the Dow closed up 0.6% to finish at 26,145.99, its first close above 26,000 this month. The S&P 500 rose 0.5% to 2,904.18 and the Nasdaq gained 0.8% to finish at 8,013.71.
The S&P finished 0.3% shy of its record close of 2,914.04 reached on Aug. 29.
For the week, the Dow was looking at a 1.1% gain, the S&P 500 a rise of 1.3% and the Nasdaq was poised for a 1.6% weekly rise. All three indexes were rebounding from last week’s declines.
What’s driving markets?
Upbeat sentiment surrounding the global trade picture has been helping to inspire gains at the week’s end. Investors will be on the lookout for further comments from either the U.S. or China after the White House administration invited Chinese officials back to the table to try to hammer out a trade deal. That meeting could take place by the end of the month.
Hurricane Florence was lashing the Carolinas coastline early Friday. According to CoreLogic estimates, wind and storm surges from the hurricane were estimated to cause property losses between $3 billion and $5 billion. The slow-moving storm was downgraded to a Category 1 storm, but still with forecasts for “catastrophic” floodwaters.
What are strategists saying?
“It appears that investors are mainly digesting yesterday’s relief rally that was sparked by indications the US and China are ready to talk trade again potentially postponing off a new round of tariffs and countermeasures. Since nothing material has changed, however, markets have gone quiet,” wrote Colin Cieszynski, chief market strategist at SIA Wealth Management, in a research note.
“As CPI cools and wages rise, the U.S. seems set to continue its economic outperformance, though the continuing outflows in U.S. equities suggests we are not at the ‘irrational exuberance’ phase of this rally just yet,” said Chris Beauchamp, chief market analyst at IG, in a note to clients.
Read: Mark Hulbert says investors now are greedy, and that’s bearish for stocks
Which economic reports are on tap?
U.S. retailers posted the weakest sales in August in six months and only an increase in purchases at gas stations prevented an outright decline, but the soft patch in spending is unlikely to last. Retail sales rose a scant 0.1% in August, the government said Friday. Economists polled by MarketWatch had forecast a 0.3% increase.
Meanwhile, the import price index sank 0.6% in August, marking the second straight month and the biggest drop in 2 ½ years for the cost of goods imported into the country, largely reflecting lower oil prices.
A report on industrial production for August showed a rise of 0.4%, the Federal Reserve reported, representing the third monthly increase.
Looking ahead, reports on consumer sentiment for September and business inventories for July are due at 10 a.m. Eastern.
Check out: MarketWatch’s Economic Calendar
On the Federal Reserve front, the Chicago Fed’s Charles Evans was due to speak before the opening bell, then the Boston Fed’s Eric Rosengren was slated to deliver a speech Friday morning.
Which stocks are in focus?
Marijuana-related stocks were down in after a report that the U.S. government may ban those who invest or work in the industry or use pot could face a lifetime ban on entering the U.S. Shares of Tilray Inc. TLRY, -8.38% slumped nearly 6.1%, while Cronos Group Inc. CRON, +1.25% dropped 3.2%
Shares of NiSource Inc. NI, -10.15% fell 10% after news reports said customers of one of the company’s seven regulated utilities, Columbia Gas of Massachusetts, were asked to evacuate following gas-related explosions in towns outside of Boston.
Read: Advanced Micro Devices Inc. backs off 12-year high
What are other markets doing?
European stocks SXXP, +0.24% traded higher, while Asian markets also had a mostly positive session.
Gold futures GCZ8, -0.31% were trading flat, while oil futures CLV8, -0.79% were tipping higher as the ICE U.S. Dollar Index DXY, +0.24% gained some altitude in an otherwise downbeat week for bucks.
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