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Wall Street climbs on bull market’s birthday as inflation fears ebb

March 9, 2018 11:55 PM
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NEW YORK, March 10 — To celebrate the bull market’s ninth birthday yesterday, the three major US stock indexes climbed almost 2 per cent and the Nasdaq closed at a record high, as February’s jobs report assuaged fears of inflation and aggressive interest rate hikes.

A month ago, the market had been spooked by wage growth that fuelled inflation fears, leading to a spike in volatility and a stock market correction. That sentiment has reversed over recent weeks with the market gradually nudging higher.

The bull market, which began on March 9, 2009, is the second longest on record, leading to questions about how much longer it can last.

Along with the jobs data, stocks were supported by easing fears of trade wars and signs of a thaw in nuclear tensions with North Korea after US President Donald Trump said he was prepared to meet the country’s leader.

Inflationary fears dissipated yesterday after US Labor Department data showed nonfarm payrolls jumped by 313,000 jobs last month, while average hourly earnings rose only 0.1 per cent compared with a 0.3 per cent rise in January.

“If we can continue like that — keep the participation increasing and keep wages steady — that’s going to be a positive scenario so the market doesn’t get overly worried about inflation running away,” said Catherine Avery, President of Catherine Avery Investment Management in Greenwich, Connecticut.

But investors will be watching closely to see if data from one month becomes a trend, Avery said.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 440.53 points, or 1.77 per cent, to end at 25,335.74, the S&P 500 gained 47.6 points, or 1.74 per cent, to 2,786.57 and the Nasdaq Composite added 132.86 points, or 1.79 per cent, to 7,560.81.

The S&P spiked higher ahead of the close around the time the Wall Street Journal issued a report that Trump’s lawyers are seeking to use an interview with the president as leverage to end special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation. The story cited an unnamed person familiar with the discussions.

“The market is being driven by a very strong jobs report and lack of wage inflation. The Goldilocks economy reappears. But anything that accelerates the (Russia probe) and removes some uncertainty is good. The financial markets really dislike uncertainty,” said Tim Ghriskey, chief investment strategist at Inverness Counsel in New York.

While the Dow ended 4.8 per cent below January’s record high, it was 8.5 per cent above its February lows. The S&P closed 3 per cent below its January record high but 10 per cent above last month’s lows.

For the week the S&P rose 3.5 per cent while the Dow gained 3.25 per cent and Nasdaq rose 4.2 per cent.

Advancing issues outnumbered declining ones on the NYSE by a 2.77-to-1 ratio; on Nasdaq, a 2.81-to-1 ratio favoured advancers.

The S&P 500 posted 62 new 52-week highs and no new lows; the Nasdaq Composite recorded 214 new highs and 16 new lows.


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