S&P 500 ends higher, led by defensive shares

NEW YORK, Nov 19 — Wall Street’s benchmark S&P 500 index ended higher yesterday in a choppy trading session, as gains in defensive shares overshadowed energy declines, and investors shrugged off hawkish comments from Federal Reserve officials about interest rate hikes.

Federal Reserve Bank of Boston leader Susan Collins said that, with little evidence price pressures are waning, the Fed may need to deliver another 75-basis point rate hike as it seeks to get inflation under control.

On Thursday, St. Louis Fed President James Bullard set off equity declines when he said the Fed needs to keep raising interest rates given that its tightening so far “had only limited effects on observed inflation.”

With Collins and then Bullard “we have had some very hawkish talk, but the market has really taken it in stride,” said Keith Lerner, co-chief investment officer at Trust Advisory Services. “It hasn’t hit the market to the downside like it has in the past.”

The Dow Jones Industrial Average .DJI rose 199.37 points, or 0.59 per cent, to 33,745.69, the S&P 500 .SPX gained 18.78 points, or 0.48 per cent, to 3,965.34 and the Nasdaq Composite .IXIC added 1.11 points, or 0.01 per cent, to 11,146.06.

For the week, the S&P 500 fell 0.7 per cent, retreating modestly after a strong month-long rally spurred by softer-than-expected inflation data that sparked hopes the central bank could temper its market-punishing rate hikes.

The Nasdaq fell 1.6 per cent for the week, while the Dow was basically unchanged.

“Markets are in a bit of a holding pattern” ahead of employment and other economic data, said Lauren Goodwin, economist and portfolio strategist at New York Life Investments.

“What is driving all equities of course is Fed policy and the gravitational force that rising interest rates have on the equity complex as a whole,” Goodwin said. “We are not likely to see any real evidence in terms of potentially declining wage pressure or inflation pressure for another couple of weeks.”

Defensive groups led the way among S&P 500 sectors, with utilities .SPLRCU up 2 per cent, real estate .SPLRCR rising 1.3 per cent and healthcare .SPXHC 1.2 per cent higher.

The energy sector .SPNY fell 0.9 per cent, as oil prices dropped, stemming from concern about weakened demand in China and further increases to US interest rates.

In company news, shares of gay dating app Grindr GRND.Nskyrocketed about 214 per cent in their market debut after the company completed its merger with a special-purpose acquisition company.

Gap Inc GPS.N shares rose 7.6 per cent after the company beat Wall Street estimates for quarterly sales and profit.

Shares of Live Nation Entertainment LYV.Nslumped 7.8 per cent after The New York Times reported that the US Justice Department was investigating whether the Ticketmaster parent had abused its power over the multibillion-dollar live music industry.

Advancing issues outnumbered declining ones on the NYSE by a 1.54-to-1 ratio; on Nasdaq, a 1.13-to-1 ratio favoured advancers.

The S&P 500 posted 8 new 52-week highs and 3 new lows; the Nasdaq Composite recorded 62 new highs and 141 new lows.

About 9.7 billion shares changed hands in US exchanges, compared with the 12 billion daily average over the last 20 sessions. — Reuters