Wall Street's benchmark indices were trading at their highest levels this year as high-level US/China trade talks in Washington overshadowed worrisome data on the US and European economy. Buoyed by bargain hunting in the healt hcare sector, the Dow Jones Industrial Average is trading above 26,000 with a decisive gain of almost 200 points.
As a result, the Dow and Nasdaq Composite are poised to close higher for a ninth straight week, while the S&P 500 will likely close higher for the eighth time in nine weeks.
Thursday's gloomy housing and manufacturing economic data was forgotten as the likelihood for progress on trade negotiations improved with Friday's participation of President Donald Trump and Chinese vice premier Liu He.
A slightly more downbeat economic outlook from the Federal Reserve and threats of EU tariffs also failed to dent the buoyant tone across Wall Street. In its semi-annual report to Congress, the Fed said 2018 ended with solid but weakening growth with consumer and business spending ebbing. A "deteriorating" appetite for risk coupled with the economic slowdown in China resulted in the Fed's policy outlook being "more uncertain than earlier."
Remarks from Fed officials had little impact on Friday's positive price action with San Francisco Fed president Mary Daly, NY Fed president John Williams and Atlanta Fed president Raphael Bostic all echoing recent statements endorsing patience in respect to interest rate changes.
In corporate news, shares of Kraft Heinz ( KHC ) tumbled to their lowest level on record after a barrage of bad news for the company jerked the stock as much as 28% lower. The food and beverage company reported much weaker-than-expected Q4 results, writeoffs, lowered its dividend and received a subpoena from the Securities and Exchange Commission regarding its accounting policies.
Europe's major averages closed higher but off their session highs after the European Commission warned that it would impose retaliatory tariffs against Xerox ( XRX ), Caterpillar ( CAT ) and Samsonite if the White House goes ahead with trade restrictions on European manufactured autos. Germany's DAX closed with a 0.30% gain despite a decay in the German Ifo business climate index, and after the country narrowly missed falling into a recession with 0.0% GDP growth last quarter.
Crude oil was up $0.33 to $57.29 per barrel. Natural gas was up $0.01 to $2.70 per 1 million BTU. Gold was up $5.70 to $1,333.60 an ounce, while silver was up $0.09 to $15.88 an ounce. Copper was up $0.05 to $2.94 per pound.
Among energy ETFs, the United States Oil Fund was up 0.76% to $11.97 with the United States Natural Gas Fund down 0.33% to $23.93. Among precious-metal funds, the Market Vectors Gold Miners ETF was up 1.12% to 23.35 while SPDR Gold Shares were up 0.58% to $125.77. The iShares Silver Trust was up 0.81% to $14.95.
Here's where the markets stood at mid-day:
NYSE Composite Index was up 68.87 points (+0.55%) to 12,690.64
Dow Jones Industrial Index was up 174.06 points (+0.67%) to 26,024.69
S&P 500 was up 17.33 points (+0.62%) to 2,792.21
Nasdaq Composite Index was up 60.67 points (+0.81%) to 7,520.38
FTSE 100 was up 11.21 points (+0.16%) to 7,178.60
DAX was up 34.42 points (+0.30%) to 11,457.70
CAC 40 was up 19.74 points (+0.38%) to 5,215.85
Nikkei 225 was down 38.72 points (-0.18%) to 21,425.51
Hang Seng Index was up 186.38 points (+0.65%) to 28,816.30
Shanghai China Composite Index was up 52.42 points (+1.91%) to 2,804.23
NYSE SECTOR INDICES
NYSE Energy Sector Index was up 39.13 points (+0.43%) to 10,629.35
NYSE Financial Sector Index was up 20.29 points (+0.28%) to 7,769.75
NYSE Healthcare Sector Index was up 120.63 points (+0.76%) to 16,087.75
(+) ACHV (+82.32%) Reported positive results from smoking-cessation drug trial
(+) W (+28.62%) Reported better-than-expected Q4 results
(+) TTD (+30.02%) Beat Q4 estimates
(+) ROKU (+20.07%) Q4 EPS and revenue beat estimates, targets 36% revenue growth in 2019
(-) STMP (-57.05%) Ended exclusive partnership with the US Postal Service
(-) KHC (-27.20%) Reported disappointing Q4 results, lowered dividend, received subpoena from SEC
(-) NHTC (-7.16%) Q4 revenue declines Y-O-Y, suspends member activities