Wall Street’s main indexes rose in choppy trade on Thursday as cooling inflation supported bets of smaller interest rate hikes by the Federal Reserve, though concerns remained that the central bank would keep hiking rates further.
The Labor Department’s report showed U.S. consumer prices grew 6.5% on an annual basis in December, in line with expectations, from a 7.1% rise last month. Core inflation was in line with expectations as well.
However, headline inflation remains above the Fed’s 2% target. All the three main stock indexes swung between gains and losses after the report.
Big technology and growth stocks such as Alphabet Inc (GOOGL.O) and Amazon.com Inc (AMZN.O) rose between 0.2% and 1%.
“The number is clearly trending in the right direction, but not very quickly. So the battle between the bulls and the bears continues,” said Dennis Dick, market structure analyst and trader at Triple D Trading.
“I think the Fed’s probably still going to stick to the plan. But can they slow the pace here? I think so.”
The Fed raised the key rate by 50 basis points in December, after four back-to-back 75-bps hikes, but also indicated a prolonged period of rate hikes to above 5% in 2023.
Philadelphia Fed President Patrick Harker said on Thursday a quarter-point rate hike would now be appropriate.
Traders’ bets of a 25-basis point rate hike by the Fed in February shot up to 89% after the inflation data, from 77% previously.
Consumer prices had been on a downward trend after peaking in June, with markets hoping that continued moderation in the latest inflation print may persuade the Fed to soon signal a pause in its rate-hiking cycle.
Another report from the Labor Department on Thursday showed initial claims for state unemployment benefits fell 1,000 to a seasonally adjusted 205,000 for the week ended Jan. 7, compared with a forecast of 215,000, signalling a still tight labour market.
This week also marks the start of the quarterly earnings season, with big banks expected to report lower profits, while overall S&P 500 earnings are expected to decline year-over-year, according to Refinitiv.
At 10:23 a.m. ET, the Dow Jones Industrial Average (.DJI) was up 102.09 points, or 0.30%, at 34,075.10, the S&P 500 (.SPX) was up 5.86 points, or 0.15%, at 3,975.47, and the Nasdaq Composite (.IXIC) was up 13.98 points, or 0.13%, at 10,945.65.
Tesla Inc (TSLA.O) slid 2.5% following a report that the electric-car maker delayed plans to expand its Shanghai factory.
Bed Bath & Beyond Inc (BBBY.O) climbed 14.2% after rising for three consecutive sessions, despite bleak quarterly results.
American Airlines Group Inc (AAL.O) advanced 5.6% after raising its fourth-quarter profit forecast on strong demand for travel during the key holiday season.
Advancing issues outnumbered decliners for a 2.31-to-1 ratio on the NYSE and a 1.63-to-1 ratio on the Nasdaq.
The S&P index recorded eight new 52-week highs and one new low, while the Nasdaq recorded 39 new highs and 10 new lows.