Wall Street gains despite rough week
The advance lifted the Dow average more than 165 points
NEW YORK » Wall Street ended a turbulent week with a sharp gain yesterday after government readings on inflation and a drop in oil prices eased worries about the effect of rising prices on consumers.
The advance lifted the Dow Jones industrial average more than 165 points, and the three major indexes turned in a mixed performance for the week.
Short-term Treasury prices rose after being pounded earlier this week on fears that the Federal Reserve would be forced to raise interest rates to combat inflation.
The readings arriving yesterday and gains in the dollar supported a notion that the Fed will be able to walk a middle line as it seeks to balance the well-being of the economy with pressures from rising prices.
Recent drops in the dollar had contributed to higher oil prices because a weaker greenback makes each barrel more expensive.
"The news today tells us that it's not getting worse," Linda Duessel, equity market strategist at Federated Investors, said yesterday.
She said that while investors aren't necessarily seeing improvement in areas like inflation, they appear relieved that prices aren't running out of control and forcing the Fed to hike rates and risk sending the economy into a steep downturn.
The government's report that prices are rising came as no surprise to investors or consumers. The U.S. Labor Department's Consumer Price Index grew 0.6 percent last month, which was just above the 0.5 percent economists had expected.
The core inflation reading, which excludes often volatile food and energy prices, edged up a more moderate 0.2 percent, as expected.
While overall prices showed their biggest one-month gain since November, the fact that the run-up seems largely contained to food and energy appeared to give investors some solace. Price spikes in all areas could make it harder for some consumers to reach into their wallets for anything more than the basics. And a pullback in consumer spending, which accounts for more than two-thirds of U.S. economic activity, could derail investors' hopes of seeing an economic recovery later in the year.
Still, the rise in energy costs is leaving some consumers in a downcast mood. The Reuters/ University of Michigan preliminary reading on consumer sentiment for June fell to a near 30-year-low of 56.7 from 59.8 last month.
But the easing of some inflation concerns yesterday appeared to bolster the case for the Fed to keep rates unchanged when it meets June 24-25 and to perhaps hold off on boosting rates for several meetings.
Comments this week from Fed officials, however, make clear that policymakers are mindful of rising prices and the taxing effect they can have on the economy