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Wall Street posts gains as utilities shine

·3-min read

Wall Street's main indexes have posted solid gains, fuelled by strong performance from defensive and tech shares that outweighed declines for economically sensitive groups as worries persisted about a potential recession.

The benchmark S&P 500 swung between positive and negative during the session but stocks picked up steam heading into the market's close.

Benchmark US Treasury yields fell to two-week lows, supporting tech and other rate-sensitive growth stocks.

Trading has remained volatile after the S&P 500 last week logged its biggest weekly percentage drop since March 2020.

Investors are weighing how far stocks could fall after the index earlier this month fell more than 20 per cent from its January all-time high, confirming the common definition of a bear market.

"There is a tremendous amount of uncertainty about the outlook and so the market is confused," said Walter Todd, chief investment officer at Greenwood Capital in South Carolina.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 194.23 points, or 0.64 per cent, to 30,677.36, the S&P 500 gained 35.84 points, or 0.95 per cent, to 3,795.73 and the Nasdaq Composite added 179.11 points, or 1.62 per cent, to 11,232.19.

In his second day of testifying before Congress, US central bank chief Jerome Powell said the Fed's commitment to reining in 40-year-high inflation is "unconditional" but also comes with the risk of higher unemployment.

US business activity slowed considerably in June as high inflation and declining consumer confidence dampened demand across the board, a survey on Thursday showed.

"The Fed wants to see things start to slow and the data is starting to reflect that," said James Ragan, director of wealth management research at DA Davidson.

Citigroup analysts are forecasting a near 50 per cent probability of a global recession.

"Economic growth is slowing. Is it going to slow enough to go into a recession, that's the big question," Ragan said.

Defensive groups considered safer bets in rocky economic times were the top-performing S&P 500 sectors.

Among them, utilities gained 2.4 per cent, healthcare rose 2.2 per cent and real estate added 2.0 per cent.

The heavyweight tech sector rose 1.4 per cent, with Microsoft gaining 2.3 per cent and Apple up 2.2 per cent.

The energy sector slumped 3.8 per cent, continuing its recent pullback after soundly outperforming the market for most of 2022.

Declines in Exxon Mobil and Chevron were the biggest individual drags on the S&P 500, with Exxon dropping 3.0 per cent and Chevron falling 3.7 per cent.

Other economically sensitive sectors also fell.

Materials lost 1.4 per cent while industrials and financials dipped about 0.5 per cent each.

Advancing issues outnumbered declining ones on the NYSE by a 1.41-to-1 ratio; on Nasdaq, a 1.67-to-1 ratio favoured advancers.

The S&P 500 posted one new 52-week high and 40 new lows; the Nasdaq Composite recorded 32 new highs and 194 new lows.

About 12.4 billion shares changed hands in US exchanges compared with the 12.5 billion daily average over the last 20 sessions.

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