U.S. Stocks Fluctuate But Remain Mostly Positive

Stocks have fluctuated after an early move to the upside on Friday but have largely maintained a positive bias. With the advance on the day, the major averages are extending the upward move seen over the course of the previous session.

Currently, the Dow is up 148.40 points or 0.5 percent at 32,767.88 and the S&P 500 is up 23.15 points or 0.6 percent at 3,932.67. The tech-heavy Nasdaq briefly dipped into negative territory but is also currently up 38.28 points or 0.3 percent at 13,015.96.

The strength on Wall Street partly reflects optimism about the economy reopening after President Joe Biden doubled his goal for the administration of coronavirus vaccines in his first 100 days in office.

On Thursday Biden announced a new goal of administering 200 million coronavirus vaccinations within his first 100 days after reaching his goal of 100 million shots before his 60th day in office.

“I know it’s ambitious, twice our original goal. But no other country in the world has even come close, not even close to what we are doing. I believe we can do it,” Biden told reporters at his first official press conference as president.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 133 million Covid vaccines have been administered, with more than 14 percent of the population fully vaccinated.

Banking stocks have also helped lead the way higher after the Federal Reserve announced restrictions on bank holding company dividends and share repurchases will end for most firms after June 30th.

The Fed said firms with capital levels above those required by the current round of stress tests will no longer be subject to the additional restrictions.

“The banking system continues to be a source of strength and returning to our normal framework after this year’s stress test will preserve that strength,” said Fed Vice Chair for Supervision Randal K. Quarles.

In U.S. economic news, the Commerce Department released a report showing personal income pulled back sharply in the month of February.

The Commerce Department said personal income plunged by 7.1 percent in February after skyrocketing by an upwardly revised 10.1 percent in January.

Economists had expected personal income to plummet by 7.3 percent compared to the 10.0 percent spike originally reported for the previous month.

The sharp pullback in personal income primarily reflected a decrease in government social benefits following the distribution of $600 stimulus checks in January.

The report also showed personal spending slumped by 1.0 percent in February after soaring by an upwardly revised 3.4 percent in January.

Economists had expected personal spending to decrease by 0.7 percent compared to the 2.4 percent jump originally reported for the previous month.

Meanwhile, a reading on inflation said to be preferred by the Federal Reserve showed the annual rate of core consumer price growth slowed to 1.4 percent in February from 1.5 percent in January.

A separate report from the University of Michigan showed U.S. consumer sentiment improved by even more than previously estimated in the month of March.

The University of Michigan said its consumer sentiment index for March was upwardly revised to 84.9 from the preliminary reading of 83.0. Economists had expected the index to be upwardly revised to 83.6.

The consumer sentiment index is well above the final February reading of 76.8, reaching its highest level since hitting 89.1 in the same month a year ago.

Sector News

Steel stocks continue to see substantial strength on optimism about the outlook for global demand, with the NYSE Arca Steel Index spiking by 4.2 percent.

Considerable strength also remains among networking stocks, as reflected by the 2.5 percent jump by the NYSE Arca Networking Index.

Semiconductor stocks have also shown a significant move to the upside on the day, driving the Philadelphia Semiconductor Index up by 2.4 percent.

Housing, computer hardware and transportation stocks are also seeing notable strength, moving higher along with most of the other major sectors.

Other Markets

In overseas trading, stock markets across the Asia-Pacific region moved mostly higher during trading on Friday. Japan’s Nikkei 225 Index and China’s Shanghai Composite Index both surged up by 1.6 percent.

The major European markets have also moved to the upside on the day. While the French CAC 40 Index has risen by 0.5 percent, the U.K.’s FTSE 100 Index and the German DAX Index are both up by 0.8 percent.

In the bond market, treasuries have climbed well off their worst levels but remain in negative territory. As a result, the yield on the benchmark ten-year note, which moves opposite of its price, is up by 2.7 basis points at 1.641 percent.

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