Stocks Ring Up a Solid First Half

By Corrie Driebusch and Riva Gold Features Dow Jones Newswires

The S&P 500 posted its strongest first half of a year since 2013, boosted by solid corporate earnings and investors' expectations for improving economic growth.

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The milestone capped a relatively rocky week, with technology shares swinging major indexes. Still, tech companies remain some of the best performers this year, propelling the Nasdaq Composite up more than 14% over the past six months, its best start in eight years. The index also has set 38 closing records in 2017, its most through the first half of a year since 1986.

"When you look at tech, these are companies with the least baggage. If you look at some of the top performers, Apple, Facebook or Amazon, these are areas where people see growth or opportunity," said Tom Digenan, head of U.S. equities at UBS Global Asset Management.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 8% in the first six months of the year, its best performance since 2013. The S&P 500 has gained 8.2% this year.

Stocks were mixed on the last day of the second quarter. The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 62.60 points, or 0.3%, to 21349.63. The S&P 500 climbed 3.71 points, or 0.2%, to 2423.41, with the tech sector falling 2.9% for the week. The tech-oriented Nasdaq Composite slipped 3.93 points, or 0.1%, to 6140.42.

Facebook and Amazon.com, up 31% and 29%, respectively, this year, both dropped in the past week.

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Shares of Blue Apron Holdings, the meal-kit-delivery startup that went public during the week, fell below their initial public offering price Friday. The stock closed at its IPO price of $10 in its first day of trading Thursday, then fell 66 cents, or 6.6% to $9.34 on Friday.

The Dow industrials, S&P 500 and Nasdaq Composite all posted weekly declines Friday.

Even as consumer confidence has risen since the election, some economic readings have come in softer than expected recently, causing some investors to question the longevity of the stock market's gains.

"The market's crafting a lot of excuses for why it's up the way that it is," said Michael Farr, president of money management firm Farr, Miller & Washington, adding that the thing that worries him most about the stock market's gains in the first half is the lack of concern among clients.

On Friday, data showed the Federal Reserve's preferred inflation gauge, the price index for personal-consumption expenditures, fell to the lowest level in six months.

U.S. government bond yields continued to rise after the reading, with the yield on the 10-year Treasury note climbing to 2.298% from 2.270% a day earlier. Yields rise when bond prices fall.

Still, the rise was modest compared with earlier in the week, when bond yields around the world jumped as central bank officials signaled they could be moving closer to withdrawing monetary stimulus. The yield on the 10-year Treasury stood at 2.146% the previous Friday, marking the biggest weekly yield increase since March.

Oil prices recovered slightly this past week, with U.S. crude for August delivery rising 7% to $46.04 a barrel. However, prices have dropped 14% this year, weighing on energy shares in the S&P 500, which are down by roughly the same percentage. The sector is the biggest decliner out of the S&P 500's 11 groups year to date.

Elsewhere, the Stoxx Europe 600 fell 0.3% on Friday, adding to its monthly losses. European stocks have fared well in the first six months of the year, with the Stoxx Europe 600 gaining 5%.

Japan's Nikkei Stock Average fell below 20000 for the first time in two weeks before recovering to end down 0.9%. Despite recent losses, the Nikkei ended the first half of the year up 4.8%.

--Lucy Craymer contributed to this article.

Write to Corrie Driebusch at corrie.driebusch@wsj.com and Riva Gold at riva.gold@wsj.com

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

June 30, 2017 18:13 ET (22:13 GMT)