Wall Street’s three major indexes closed higher on Friday (March 18), with the biggest boost from recently battered technology stocks, after talks between US President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping over the Ukraine crisis ended without big surprises.
Investors were also relieved by slowing gains in oil prices as they continued to digest the Federal Reserve’s Wednesday interest rate increase and its aggressive plan for further hikes aimed at combating soaring inflation.
President Joe Biden warned Chinese leader Xi Jinping during a call that there would be “consequences” if Beijing gave material support to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the White House said. Both sides stressed the need for a diplomatic solution to the crisis.
While Xi called on NATO nations to hold a dialogue with Moscow, he did not assign blame to Russia for the invasion.
“The read out from the meeting was as expected,” said Art Hogan, chief market strategist at National Securities in New York regarding the Xi/Biden talks. He said that since Russia/Ukraine talks were continuing, investors were tending toward optimism.
“Regarding Russia, Ukraine, the market has been more positive on news from the diplomatic front than negative on the escalation.”
Hogan also cited calmer oil prices and relief that the highly anticipated Fed news was finally out.
“Instead of having fears and trepidation of what the Fed might do we have clear roadmap for monetary policy,” he said.
In addition to less onerous than expected Fed actions, Steve Sosnick, chief strategist at Interactive Brokers in Greenwich, Connecticut said investors were reassured that US crude oil prices weren’t too far above $100 on Friday after recently surpassing $130.
“At least for this week oil has found a level. That’s someway positive for the market as a rising oil price is overweighted in consumer minds as an inflationary indicator,” said Sosnick. “Does the market like oil around $100? No. But is it happier that it’s around $100 than going up $20 every day? Of course.”
Investors were also monitoring for any impact from Friday’s “triple witching,” in which investors unwind positions in futures and options contracts before they expire, which can lead to volatility and trading volume.
On Friday the expirations appeared to boost volume as 18.47 billion shares changed hands on US exchanges compared with the 14.56 billion moving average for the last 20 sessions.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 274.17 points, or 0.8 per cent, to 34,754.93, the S&P 500 gained 51.45 points, or 1.17 per cent, to 4,463.12 and the Nasdaq Composite added 279.06 points, or 2.05 per cent, to 13,893.84.
Wall Street’s three main indexes boasted their biggest weekly percentage gains since early November 2020 with the S&P adding 6.2 per cent while the Dow rose 5.5 per cent and the Nasdaq jumping 8.2 per cent.
Ten of the 11 major S&P 500 sectors closed higher, with heavyweight technology and consumer discretionary both finishing up 2.2 per cent while communication services rising 1.4 per cent.
The only declining sector was utilities which ended the session down 0.9 per cent.
Moderna Inc. closed up 6.3 per cent after the drugmaker submitted a request to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to allow for a second booster of its COVID-19 vaccine.
Shares of Boeing Co. finished up 1.4 per cent after reports the planemaker was edging toward a landmark order from Delta Air Lines for up to 100 of its 737 MAX 10 jets.
But shares in US delivery firm FedEx Corp. slumped almost four per cent after a weaker-than-expected quarterly earnings report.
Advancing issues outnumbered declining ones on the NYSE by a 2.20-to-1 ratio; on Nasdaq, a 2.19-to-1 ratio favoured advancers.
The S&P 500 posted 19 new 52-week highs and 1 new lows; the Nasdaq Composite recorded 44 new highs and 41 new lows.