By DAMIAN J. TROISE
Stocks were mixed to slightly higher in midday trading on Wall Street on Friday, as gains in energy companies were offsetting declines in big technology companies like Nvidia and Twitter.
The S&P 500 was up 0.3% as of 12:20 p.m. Eastern. The benchmark index is down slightly for the week, roughly 0.7%, after the market had three straight of weekly gains. The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 261 points, or 0.8%, to 34,840 and the Nasdaq fell 0.4%.
Technology stocks were the biggest drag on the market. The sector’s lofty valuations often put outsized pressure on moving the broader market up or down. Apple fell 1.1% and Microsoft fell 1%. Chipmaker Nvidia was down 3.5% and Twitter was down 3.4%.
Big tech stocks have been particularly sensitive to rising interest rates, which can make pricey growth stocks look less attractive relative to their earnings.
Treasury yields continued rising as traders get accustomed to the Federal Reserve’s ongoing policy pivot to fighting inflation instead of stimulating the economy. The yield on the 10-year Treasury rose to 2.69% from 2.65% late Thursday, its highest level in three years.
The Fed has already announced a quarter-percentage point increase for its benchmark interest rate and is prepared to take aggressive measures to help temper inflation’s impact on the economy.
Minutes from the Fed’s meeting last month showed policymakers agreed to begin cutting the central bank’s stockpile of Treasurys and mortgage-backed securities by about $95 billion a month, starting in May. That’s more than some investors expected and nearly double the pace the last time the Fed shrank its balance sheet.
Traders are now pricing in a greater than 80% probability the Fed will raise its benchmark overnight rate by half a percentage point at its next meeting in May. That’s double the usual amount and something the Fed hasn’t done since 2000.
Investors have been weighing the impact of the Fed’s monetary policy shift as they also closely watch the conflict in Ukraine. Energy prices have been volatile and food prices have been rising since Russia invaded Ukraine. That adds to lingering uncertainty over how long inflation will last and how bad it will get.
Wall Street will get company earnings starting next week, when the nation’s biggest banks will report their quarterly results. The biggest concern going into this quarterly earnings season is inflation, and whether it will impact profits. For the big banks, they reported a big jump in salaries and personnel costs in the fourth quarter and that is expected to continue.
Crude oil prices were up 0.6% on Friday, but they are still up about 30% for the year. Wheat prices are up about 35% and corn prices are up 30%.
The conflict in Ukraine has prompted sanctions from the U.S. and much of Europe that have dented Russia’s economy. Still, Russia’s central bank has managed to stabilize key aspects of its economy with severe controls. It is lowering a key interest rate and said more cuts could be on the way.
Wall Street is also watching the latest reaction from China over a surge in COVID-19 cases. Shanghai residents face severe restrictions on movement and activities because of the surge and that has some companies concerned.
ACM Research, which makes equipment used in the production of computer chips, warned investors about a hit to its revenue because of limits to operations. The stock fell more than 6%.
A jump in COVID-19 cases is also behind airline disruptions in Europe. Two major airlines, British Airways and easyJet, canceled about 100 flights Wednesday. The industry is suffering from staff shortages because of virus.
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