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Stocks climb with techs ready to roar

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Stocks climbed on Friday, setting the S&P 500 on track for a new record high as a tech-led rally lifted a market weighed down by uncertainty over the odds of an early interest rate cut.

The tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite (^IXIC) jumped 0.5%, eyeing a return to gains notched Thursday as Apple (AAPL) and chipmakers outperformed. The benchmark S&P 500 (^GSPC) rose 0.3%, while the Dow Jones Industrial Average (^DJI) gained 0.3% or about 120 points.

Focus has turned to big tech to potentially kickstart a lagging stock market, now that the key drivers of the late 2023 rally have waned. Thursday’s tech-led surge in stocks put the S&P 500 within 0.3% of its all-time closing high of 4,796.56 and snapped a three-day losing streak for the Dow.

But stocks have had a bumpy holiday-shortened week, as investors reacted to policymakers’ comments, economic data, and corporate earnings in a bid to gauge the likelihood of a Federal Reserve pivot. The market is still closely watching for cues to the timing of rate cuts, which could set the tone for corporates this year.

Read more: What the Fed rate-hike pause means for bank accounts, CDs, loans, and credit cards

In individual stocks, iRobot (IRBT) shares were down 29% after a report that EU regulators plan to block Amazon’s (AMZN) $1.4 billion acquisition of the Roomba maker. Meanwhile, Macy’s (M) slipped over 3% after the retailer said it is cutting 2,350 jobs and closing five stores.

Quarterly results from Travelers (TRV), Regions Financial (RF), and banks are on the earnings docket Friday. In economic updates, a December reading on existing home sales is due, as well as a look at consumer sentiment from the University of Michigan.

Elsewhere, a reprieve in the US government funding saga came after lawmakers passed a stopgap bill to avert a looming shutdown.

Live3 updates

  • Consumers haven’t felt this good about the economy since July 2021

    Americans are feeling increasingly better about the state of the US economy.

    The latest University of Michigan consumer sentiment survey released Friday revealed a 13% jump in overall sentiment during the month of January. The index reading for the month came in at 78.8, its highest mark since July 2021, and well above economists expectations for a reading of 70.1.

    The cumulative 29% climb seen in the sentiment index over the past two months is the largest two-month increase since the US economy recovered from recession in 1991.

    “The sharp increase in December was no fluke,” survey of consumers director Joanne Hsu said in a press release. “Consumer views were supported by confidence that inflation has turned a corner and strengthening income expectations.”

  • Stocks climb as S&P 500 aims for record high

    Wall Street kicked off trading on Friday with gains across the board, setting the S&P 500 up for a fresh record high as investors appear to shake off pessimism tied to the Fed’s potential interest rate cuts.

    The tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite (^IXIC) jumped 0.5%, eyeing a return to gains notched Thursday as Apple (AAPL) and chipmakers outperformed. The benchmark S&P 500 (^GSPC) gained 0.3%, while the Dow Jones Industrial Average (^DJI) gained 0.3% or about 120 points.

  • Ford cuts F-150 Lightning production as electric truck demand flags

    Ford (F) said early Friday it would take 1,400 workers off the production line for the F-150 Lightning, the electric version of its best-selling truck, in response to customer demand.

    Meaning people aren’t as excited about buying an electric version of the F-150 as the company had planned.

    Half of these workers will be moved for Ford’s plant making its new Bronco and Ranger trucks, while the other half will be offered buyouts or find a placement in another role at its Dearborn factory where the F-150 Lightning is being made.

    The move recalls a story from Yahoo Finance’s Pras Subramanian in late 2023 that noted last year we saw the industry’s EV dreams meet reality.

    Meaning the lofty projections automakers made in recent years that the whole country would start to look like California when it comes to EV uptake are starting to look too dreamy.

    And investors have certainly been skeptical — shares of Ford and GM (GM) are both down over the last year, lagging the S&P 500 considerably over that period.

    With higher rates making auto financing more challenging for many consumers, fears over an economic slowdown still weighing on consumers, and inventory levels remaining depressed the euphoric feelings that swept the auto industry in 2021 feel quite distant as 2024 gets underway.

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