By Stephen Culp
NEW YORK (Reuters) – U.S. stocks closed modestly higher at the end of a torpid week marked with few market-moving catalysts and persistent concerns over whether current inflation spikes could linger and cause the U.S. Federal Reserve to tighten its dovish policy sooner than expected.
The Nasdaq gained the most among the three major indexes, while the bellwether S&P 500 squeaked its way to a second straight record closing high.
For the week, the S&P and the Nasdaq advanced from last Friday’s close, while the Dow posted a small weekly loss.
The indexes have been range-bound, with few catalysts to move investor sentiment. Much of the focus centered on Thursday’s consumer price data, which eased jitters over the duration of the current inflation wave.
“It’s a muted day today,” Oliver Pursche, senior vice president at Wealthspire Advisors, in New York. “The summer is settling in, people are slipping out of work early and there’s nothing in the news that’s going to materially drive the market in either direction.”
“So, investors are going to wait until earnings season.”
The Federal Reserve has repeatedly said that near-term price surges will not metastasize into lasting inflation, an assertion reflected in the University of Michigan’s Consumer Sentiment report released on Friday, which showed inflation expectations easing from last month’s spike.
Investors now turn their attention to the Fed’s statement at the conclusion of next week’s two-day monetary policy meeting, which will be parsed for clues regarding the central bank’s timetable for raising key interest rates.
“Our view continues to be that inflationary data is transient and we will be around the 2% mark for the year,” Pursche added.
Benchmark U.S. Treasury yields posted their biggest weekly drop in nearly a year, weighing on the interest-sensitive financial sector in recent sessions.
The Food and Drug Administration is facing mounting criticism over its “accelerated approval” of Biogen Inc’s Alzheimer’s drug Aduhelm without strong evidence of its ability to combat the disease.
Biogen shares ended down 4.4%, while the broader healthcare sector shed 0.7%.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 13.36 points, or 0.04%, to 34,479.6, the S&P 500 gained 8.26 points, or 0.19%, to 4,247.44 and the Nasdaq Composite added 49.09 points, or 0.35%, to 14,069.42.
Among the 11 major sectors in the S&P 500, rebounding financial stocks and tech led the gainers, while healthcare suffered the biggest percentage drop.
Much of the trading volume this week was attributable to the ongoing social media-driven “meme stock” phenomenon, in which retail investors swarm around heavily shorted stocks.
But meme stock moves were more muted on Friday, with AMC Entertainment outperformed, gaining 15.4%.
Advancing issues outnumbered declining ones on the NYSE by a 1.83-to-1 ratio; on Nasdaq, a 1.70-to-1 ratio favored advancers.
The S&P 500 posted 33 new 52-week highs and one new low; the Nasdaq Composite recorded 108 new highs and 16 new lows.
Volume on U.S. exchanges was 9.11 billion shares, compared with the 10.56 billion average over the last 20 trading days.
(Reporting by Stephen Culp in New York; Additional reporting by Ambar Warrick and Devik Jain in Bengaluru; Editing by Matthew Lewis and Cynthia Osterman)