U.S. stocks post solid weekly gains amid economic data

Source: Xinhua| 2017-09-17 00:25:19|Editor: Mu Xuequan
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NEW YORK, Sept. 16 (Xinhua) -- U.S. stocks notched solid gains for the week, with the Dow posting best weekly performance since December, as investors mainly focused on economic data.

For the week, the blue-chip Dow rose 2.16 percent, and the broader S&P 500 was up 1.58 percent, while the tech-heavy Nasdaq rallied 1.39 percent.

Adjusted for seasonal variation, holiday and trading-day differences instead of price changes, advance estimates of U.S. retail and food services sales for August 2017 were 474.8 billion U.S. dollars, a decrease of 0.2 percent from the previous month, and 3.2 percent above August 2016, the Commerce Department said Friday.

Data for July were revised to show sales increasing 0.3 percent instead of a previously reported 0.6 percent surge, according to the department.

Meanwhile, Wall Street has kept a close eye on inflation data as they might indicate the Federal Reserve's next move.

The Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers rose 0.4 percent in August on a seasonally adjusted basis, the U.S. Labor Department reported Thursday.

Over the last 12 months, consumer prices rose 1.9 percent. The 12-month change in the index for all items less food and energy remained at 1.7 percent for the fourth month in a row, according to the report.

"(Federal Reserve Chair Janet) Yellen and other FOMC participants desperate to believe two percent inflation is coming could try and validate food and energy increases as proof that recent inflation weakness was also a consequence of one-offs," said Chris Low, chief economist of FTN Financial.

"It would be a spurious argument, but just the sort of spurious argument that appeals to the Fed," he added.

Market expectations for a Fed rate hike in December stood at 50.9 percent, according to the CME Group's FedWatch tool.

The Fed is scheduled to announce its latest decision on monetary policy next week. While the central bank is not expected to announce a rate hike, it is expected to start unwinding its massive portfolio that has amounted to 4.5 trillion dollars.

The Labor Department said in a separate report on Thursday that in the week ending Sept. 9, the advance figure for seasonally adjusted new U.S. jobless claims was 284,000, down 14,000 from the previous week's unrevised level of 298,000.

The four-week moving average was 263,250, an increase of 13,000 from the previous week's unrevised average of 250,250. This is the highest level for this average since Aug. 13, 2016 when it was 263,250, according to the report.

The seasonally adjusted Producer Price Index for final demand advanced 0.2 percent in August, said the U.S. Labor Department in a report on Wednesday.

The index for final demand less foods, energy, and trade services increased 0.2 percent in August following no change in July. For the 12 months ended in August, prices for final demand less foods, energy, and trade services rose 1.9 percent, according to the report.

U.S. equities rose sharply this week also partially because Hurricane Irma's damage appeared to be less than what the market had expected.

Hurricane Irma, once a Category 5 hurricane, hit the coast of Florida over the weekend. It continued to march north on Monday, dumping rains across the state. However, the National Hurricane Center said that Irma had already weakened to a tropical storm.

Analysts said hurricanes have put markets on edge over recent weeks, as investors were quite uneasy when assessing the impact of these natural disasters on the markets.

Shares of Travelers Companies Inc, Delta Air Lines and JetBlue Airways Corporation rose 2.35 percent, 2.97 percent and 3.64 percent, respectively.

In addition, investors have also kept a close eye on the progress of a possible tax reform.

U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told media earlier this week that the Trump administration would pass tax reform before 2018. He also said that the administration will release a more detailed tax reform plan by the end of this month.

"We're awaiting the Trump administration's tax policy proposals, if what we hear is correct, we anticipate that they will propose to reduce the corporate tax down to about 20 or 25 percent," Robert Salomon, associate professor at the Stern School of Business, New York University, told Xinhua in a recent interview.

"They will also attempt to reduce the individual income tax rates down to about the highest rate of 35 percent more or less," he said.

U.S. President Donald Trump pushed Congress on Aug. 30 to pass a comprehensive measure to overhaul the U.S. tax code. He vowed to reduce the corporate tax to 15 percent to attract more companies to do business in the United States.

Economists have long called for a lower corporate tax in the United States, which is the highest among OECD countries. The major hurdle is how to fund the cut.

House Speaker Paul Ryan, who insisted on a revenue-neutral approach on tax reform, said last week that Trump's goal of lowering the corporate tax rate to 15 percent would be difficult to achieve.

In corporate news, Apple on Tuesday unveiled the iPhone X, the iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus, a new 4K Apple TV and the Apple Watch Series 3, all in the Steve Jobs Theater on the company's new 175-acre campus.