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The Markets This Week

July 25, 2016 | Weekly Commentary

Stock prices closed at all-time highs for the second week in a row. The fireworks weren’t as impressive as the previous week, when at least one major index set a new high each day, but the market finished Friday with a flourish.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 54 points, or 0.3%, to close at 18,570.85, just inches below its record high of 18,595.03, hit Wednesday. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index picked up 2175.03, a new high. The Nasdaq Composite rose 1.4%, to 5100.16.

Still, it was an up and down week, due partly to second-quarter earnings reports that tugged the market one way and then the other. Soft results from the transportation sector and from Intel (ticker: INTC) Thursday cooled off a market that had shot up on a strong report from Microsoft (MSFT) the previous day.

Markit said Friday that its July preliminary U.S. Manufacturing Purchasing Managers Index (PMI) rose to 52.9, above expectations and the highest in nine months. Markit’s Eurozone Composite July PMI data fell less than feared. Even hints from the Federal Reserve that it could raise interest rates before year end didn’t sidetrack the bull—for now.

The package of stronger economic data was helpful, says Quincy Krosby, Prudential Financial’s markets strategist. Though earnings weren’t great, the tone is more positive and suggests—with more companies yet to report—that the profits-growth recession is lessening, she says. Rightly or wrongly, that’s led to an easing of worries about Brexit.

Some issues should be capping market enthusiasm—whether uncertainty about the U.S. elections or long-term Brexit fallout—but the market doesn’t seem to care, according to Mark Luschini, chief investment strategist at Janney Montgomery Scott. “The path of least resistance is up,” he says.

Investors are looking past the second quarter and “borrowing” earnings growth from the balance of the year and 2017, he adds. The “sturdy” U.S. economic data mean the Fed will likely hike interest rates by year end, Luschini says, and a September hike isn’t off the table “if the data holds up.”

There’s some rally-chasing going on, adds Seth Setrakian, president of Spectrum Capital Management. “Everyone who was panicked a month ago after Brexit can’t help themselves buying now,” he says. Setrakian, who also says a September Fed rate hike is on the table again, is worried about the next few months. Commodity prices are soft, the dollar is strong, and there’s continuing uncertainty about the elections, he says. “The market doesn’t care…until it does.

(Source: Barrons Online)

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