US stocks push higher as volatility reigns

New York (Sept 10)  US stocks pushed higher Thursday, at times giving up gains, as investors grappled with mixed economic reports and looked ahead to next week’s meeting of Federal Reserve policy makers.

A jump in oil prices helped spread optimism to overall markets, though it did not lift energy stocks.

All three main stock indexes flipped between small gains and losses in early action before rising.

The S&P 500 index SPX, +0.55% was up 9 points, or 0.5%, to 1,951, with nine of its 10 main sectors trading higher. The Dow Jones Industrial Average DJIA, +0.49%  added 71 points, or 0.4%, to 16,325. The Nasdaq Composite COMP, +0.83%  rose 40 points, or 0.9%, to 4,797, while its biggest component Apple Inc. AAPL, +2.07% jumped 2%.

“While we are seeing big swings in both directions, markets are not making a forward progress and that’s likely to continue over the next few months,” said Maris Ogg, president at Tower Bridge Advisors.

“We have a combination of further selling by mutual funds to cover taxes after big losses in their portfolios and banks revaluing loans in the energy sector, both of those factors will keep the markets recovering for few months,” Ogg said.

Economic data did little to help investors interpret when the Fed may decide to start increasing interest rates. Falling import and export prices suggested inflation trending lower, while a drop in weekly jobless claims pointed to a labor market showing signs of continued strength.

Falling import prices are a significant factor in keeping U.S. inflation low at a time when the Federal Reserve wants to see prices increase.

Uncertainty about the Fed’s decision on interest rates at its two-day policy meeting next Wednesday has been contributing to volatility in the market, with some analysts ruling out a hike this month. Goldman Sachs said in a note dated Sept. 9 that it continues to expect the Fed to start the hiking cycle at the December meeting.

See also: Former Yellen aide to Fed: Don’t raise rates next week 

There were no Fed speakers scheduled for Thursday as the central bank is in its “blackout” period ahead of its key policy meeting.

Thursday’s data:  The number of people who applied for U.S. unemployment benefits in the first week of September fell by 6,000 to 275,000, showing that layoffs remain near the lowest level in decades.

Source: MarketWatch