After moving sharply higher in early trading on Friday, stocks have given back some ground but continue to perform well in mid-day trading. While the major averages have pulled back off their best levels of the day, they remain firmly positive.
The major averages have moved roughly sideways in recent trading, hovering in positive territory. The Dow is up 54.94 points or 0.4 percent at 13,594.80, the Nasdaq is up 31.28 points or 1 percent at 3,187.11 and the S&P 500 is up 7.50 points or 0.5 percent at 1,467.49.
The continued strength on Wall Street comes following yesterday's announcement from the Federal Reserve of its decision to provide further economic stimulus by purchasing additional agency mortgage-backed securities at a pace of $40 billion per month.
Looking ahead, the Fed said it would continue its purchases of mortgage-backed securities until the outlook for the labor market improves substantially.
The central bank also left interest rates at near-zero levels and said exceptionally low rates are likely to be warranted at least through mid-2015.
Traders are also digesting a slew of U.S. economic data, including a report from the Commerce Department showing slightly stronger than expected retail sales growth amid a jump in gas prices.
The report showed that retail sales rose by 0.9 percent in August following a downwardly revised 0.6 percent increase in July. Economists had expected sales growth to match the 0.8 percent increase originally reported for the previous month.
However, excluding sales in both the automotive and gasoline sectors, August retail sales were up a mere 0.1 percent, notably below the 0.4 percent growth predicted by most economists.
A separate report from Thomson Reuters and the University of Michigan showed that consumer sentiment has unexpectedly seen a substantial improvement in the month of September.
The consumer sentiment index jumped to 79.2 in September from the final August reading of 74.3. The increase came as a surprise to economists, who had expected the index to edge down to a reading of 73.5.
Meanwhile, the Federal Reserve released a report showing a much steeper than expected drop in industrial production in the month of August, with Hurricane Isaac restraining output in the Gulf Coast region
The Fed said industrial production tumbled by 1.2 percent in August following a downwardly revised 0.5 percent increase in July. Economists had expected production to edge down by 0.1 percent.
A report from the Labor Department showed that consumer prices increased in line with economist estimates in August amid a sharp jump in energy prices.
While most of the major sectors have moved to the upside, steel stocks are posting particularly strong gains amid optimism about the outlook for demand. The NYSE Arca Steel Index is up by 3.2 percent after reaching a four-month high.
Olympic Steel (ZEUS) and Cliffs Natural Resources (CLF) are turning in two of the steel sector's best performances, advancing by 7.1 percent and 7.2 percent, respectively.
Significant strength is also visible among housing stocks, as reflected by the 2.9 percent gain being posted by the Philadelphia Housing Sector Index. With the gain, the index has reached its best levels in almost five years.
Gold stocks are also seeing considerable strength, adding to the standout gains posted in the previous session. After reaching a six-month intraday high, the NYSE Arca Gold Bugs Index has given back some ground but remains up by 2.2 percent.
Networking, oil service, and semiconductor stocks are also posting substantial gains, while some pharmaceutical, airline, and utilities stocks are bucking the uptrend.
In overseas trading, stock markets across the Asia-Pacific region saw considerable strength on Friday following the overnight rally on Wall Street. Japan's Nikkei 225 Index surged up by 1.8 percent, while Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index jumped by 2.9 percent.
The major European markets also moved sharply higher on the day. While the French CAC 40 Index soared 2.3 percent, the U.K.'s FTSE 100 Index and the German DAX Index jumped 1.6 percent and 1.4 percent, respectively.
In the bond market, treasuries have shown a steep move to the downside, extending a recent downward trend. Subsequently, the yield on the benchmark ten-year note, which moves opposite of its price, is up by 9.4 basis points at 1.85 percent.
by RTT Staff Writer
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