U.S. Stocks Set to Post Strong First-Half Gains

By Riva Gold and Corrie Driebusch Features Dow Jones Newswires

U.S. stocks rose Friday, with major indexes set to post strong gains in the first half of 2017.

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Technology companies, which have come under pressure in recent weeks, ticked higher. Tech stocks have been some of the best performers so far this year, propelling the Nasdaq Composite toward its best start to a year since 2009.

"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 Nasdaq Composite added 0.2% Friday, set to end the first half of the year up more than 14%. The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 97 points, or 0.5%, to 21384, while the S&P 500 climbed 0.4%. Both indexes are on pace to finish the first six months of 2017 up more than 8%.

As stocks around the world have spent most of the year climbing, government-bond yields have remained ultralow. However, those trends had reversed for most of this week amid pressure on the tech sector and worries that global central banks may be tightening policy faster than previously expected in response to strengthening economies.

Tech companies in the S&P 500 are on pace to end the week down 2.6%.

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Among the disappointing performers this week: Blue Apron Holdings, a meal-kit-delivery tech startup that made its stock-market debut Thursday. The company closed at its IPO price of $10 a share on Thursday following a disappointing roadshow, and on Friday the stock fell 3.9% to $9.61.

The rise in stock prices in the first half of the year were buoyed by strong corporate earnings and the expectation that economic growth is picking up. However, some economic readings have come in softer than expected, even as consumer confidence has soared, 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 the money management firm Farr, Miller & Washington, adding that the thing that worries him most about the stock-market's half-yearly gains 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 2.282%, according to Tradeweb, from 2.270%. 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 Stoxx Europe 600 fell 0.3% on Friday, adding to its monthly losses. However, in the first six months of the year European stocks have fared well, with the Stoxx Europe 600 gaining 5%.

Earlier, the global bond selloff had spread to Asia, pushing the yield on Japan's 10-year government bond to its highest in more than three months.

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%.

In currencies, the WSJ Dollar Index was recently up 0.1% following its lowest close since November.

--Lucy Craymer contributed to this article.

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

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

June 30, 2017 14:57 ET (18:57 GMT)