The S&P 500 rose on Friday, helped by healthcare stocks after Trump blasted high drug prices but avoided taking aggressive measures to cut them. Johnson & Johnson and Pfizer each rose over 1 percent while Merck & Co was up 2.8 percent.
The S&P healthcare index ended 1.47 percent higher, while the Nasdaq Biotechnology index rallied 2.68 percent.
The tech sector slipped 0.32 percent, with Apple down 0.38 percent after a nine-day winning streak that saw the company edge closer to $1 trillion in market capitalization.
Also weighing on tech was Nvidia, which fell 2.15 percent on worries that a short-term surge in demand for graphics chips from cryptocurrency miners may be undermining the company’s core business with computer gamers.
For the week, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 2.3 percent, the S&P 500 gained 2.4 percent, and the Nasdaq ended the week up 2.7 percent.
During Friday’s session, the Dow edged above its 100-day moving average for the first time since April 18, following the S&P 500’s similar move a day earlier. Some traders believe such developments mean the market is likely to move higher.
With March-quarter reports mostly wrapped up, S&P 500 companies appear to have grown their earnings per share by 26 percent, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.
Due to increased expectations for corporate profits and a dip in stock prices since January, the S&P 500 is now trading at 16 times expected earnings, its lowest multiple in two years, according to Thomson Reuters Datastream.
Helping out the Dow was Verizon, which rose 3 percent after JPMorgan upgraded the wireless carrier to “overweight,” saying 5G opportunity will start to crystallize in the next few months.
Symantec fell 33 percent after the Norton Antivirus maker said it was investigating concerns raised by a former employee.
Approximately 5.8 billion shares changed hands on the major domestic equity exchanges, as compared to the 6.6 billion-share average over the past 20 trading days.
One Fed View on Interest Rates
St. Louis Federal Reserve Bank President James Bullard on Friday spelled out the case against any further interest rate increases, saying rates may already have reached a “neutral” level that is no longer stimulating the economy.
Going further at this point, he said, risks nipping off business investment that might follow the recent corporate tax cut, upset healthy conditions in the labor market, and leave inflation expectations short of the central bank’s goal.
There are “reasons for caution in raising the policy rate further given current macroeconomic conditions,” Bullard said in remarks to the Springfield Area Chamber of Commerce in Springfield, Mo.
Bullard has made a series of arguments in recent years for halting further rate increases until inflation, growth and market interest rates have shifted to a higher, more dynamic “regime.”
His colleagues have proceeded to gradually raise rates nonetheless, and currently expect to do so two more times this year. Many economists and analysts argue they will likely add an additional quarter-point increase this year as the impact of burgeoning federal deficits and a recent tax cut are felt in an economy with low unemployment and inflation edging up towards the Fed’s two percent target.
Bullard, who is not a voting member of the Fed’s policy committee this year, said he felt they may be moving too fast. While inflation now appears close to 2 percent, Bullard said his estimate of market-based inflation expectations show that investors “believe there is currently little inflationary pressure in the U.S.”
Leaving rates steady, he said, would “re-center inflation expectations at the target.”
He laid out a similar case for giving businesses more time to invest, and for extending what he sees as a healthy balance in job markets where building wage pressures offer companies a choice between paying more to workers or investing more capital to raise productivity.
“This is an equilibrium process, not an inflationary one,” Bullard said, and “it is not necessary to disrupt” it with higher interest rates.
He also flagged an evolving debate at the Fed about how much further rates can rise before they are neutral and no longer “accommodative.” That is a sensitive line the central bank may be hesitant to cross, but to Bullard it has already arrived.
The Fed’s current policy rate of between 1.5 and 1.75 percent is already “pressing against” estimates of the neutral rate, he said, another argument against going further.
Oil Near Multi-Year Highs
Oil prices steadied near 3-1/2-year highs on Friday as the prospect of new U.S. sanctions on Iran tightened the outlook for Middle East supply at a time when global crude production is only just keeping pace with rising demand.
The United States plans to reintroduce sanctions against Iran, which pumps about 4 percent of the world’s oil, after abandoning a deal reached in late 2015 that limited Tehran’s nuclear ambitions in exchange for the removal of U.S. and European sanctions.
The global oil market is finely balanced, with top exporter Saudi Arabia and No.1 producer Russia having led efforts to curb oil supply to prop up prices.
Benchmark Brent crude LCOc1 was down 20 cents at $77.27 a barrel by 1330 GMT. On Thursday Brent hit $78, its highest since November 2014.
U.S. light crude CLc1 was down 10 cents at $71.26, having touched a 3-1/2 year high of $71.89 on Thursday.
Many analysts expect oil prices to rise as Iran’s exports fall.
Jefferies, an investment bank, said in a note on Friday that it expects Iranian crude oil exports to start falling in the next few months.
“We expect that around October Iranian exports will be down by 500,000 barrels per day (bpd) and eventually fall by 1 million bpd,” the bank said.
There are signs, however, that other members of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) will raise output to counter the Iran disruption.
Jefferies said that OPEC has the capacity “to replace the Iranian losses” but added: “Even if physical supply is held constant … the market will still be faced with a precariously low level of spare capacity.”
Outside OPEC, soaring U.S. crude oil production could help to fill Iran’s supply gap. U.S. oil output reached another record high last week, hitting 10.7 million bpd.
That is up 27 percent since mid-2016 and means that U.S. output is creeping ever closer to that of top producer Russia, which pumps about 11 million bpd.