Odd for a day of options expiration, the day on Wall Street was marked by light volatility and a narrow trading range, the tone set for confusion prior to the open when CPI showed a spike in January to 0.3%, the biggest jump in more than four years.
On a year-over-year basis, excluding food and energy, CPI grew by 2.2%, the highest inflation rate since June 2012. While on the one hand, the data was supportive of further hikes in the federal funds rate, investors were concerned that such a data-driven move by the Fed might cause further declines in stocks.
With that, equities got stuck in cautious trading, ending just about where they started the day.
The minor moves did little to derail the mini-rally that comprised the better part of the holiday-shortened week.
The Dow finished ahead for the week by 418.15 (+2.62%); the S&P added 53.00 points (+2.84%); the NASDAQ ended ahead by 166.92 (+3.85%). The gains were the best of the seven weeks of trading this year, though the indices remain mired in the red zone.
With no FOMC meeting in February, investors will have to ride along until March 15-16, the dates of the next Open Market Committee, though odds are still in favor of the committee keeping rates at 0.25-0.50%, considering the poor performance of stocks following the first rate hike in December.
As was the case at the end of last year, the Fed is stuck in a serious spot, hoping to hike rates three more times this year, while the US and global economies continue to look ragged, worn out and teetering on the brink of recession.
About the best the Fed can offer in its assessment of US markets is that at least they're doing better than all other advanced economies, including France, UK, Germany, Japan, China, and Australia.
S&P 500: 1,917.78, -0.05 (0.00%)
Dow: 16,391.99, -21.44 (0.13%)
NASDAQ: 4,504.43, +16.89 (0.38%)
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