FOX Business: The Power to Prosper
In a mixed kickoff to the fourth quarter, Wall Street closed well off its best levels on Friday as enthusiasm over a surprise expansion of U.S. manufacturing activity faded and slumping Apple continued to weigh on the Nasdaq Composite.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 77.91 points, or 0.58%, to 13515.04, the S&P 500 gained 3.81 points, or 0.26%, to 1444.48 and the Nasdaq Composite lost 2.70 points, or 0.09%, to 3113.53. The FOX 50 advanced 2.89 points, or 0.27%, to 1091.79.
At session highs the blue chips had been more than 150 points in the green, cheered on by the unexpected rebound in the closely-watched manufacturing gauge.
Market participants didn't point to any specific reasons for the afternoon pullback, which began as Fed chief Ben Bernanke defended his latest stimulus policies and reaffirmed he expects the U.S. economy to continue to grow despite some calls for a recession.
The mixed picture comes after Wall Street put the finishing touches on a surprisingly solid third quarter that has left the markets within striking distance of all-time highs despite lingering economic headwinds.
“We had a great third quarter. We definitely have some positive momentum still very much within a very constructive tone in the market,” said Peter Kenny, managing director at Knight Capital Group (KCG).
Apple (AAPL) drove the declines in the Nasdaq as the tech behemoth declined another 1%. Apple’s shares, which have the biggest weighting among Nasdaq stocks, have retreated almost 6% since disclosing iPhone sales figures last week that disappointed some investors.
The retreat from session highs began after the comments from Bernanke, who said he doesn't see the U.S. sinking into a recession, but warned growth remains too slow to significantly cut down on unemployment.
"The case seemed clear to most of my colleagues that we could do more to assist economic growth and the job market without compromising our goal of price stability," Bernanke said in defense of QE3.
Also on the economic front, the Institute for Supply Management said manufacturing activity in the U.S. expanded in September for the first time since May. ISM's manufacturing PMI hit 51.5 last month, topping estimates for 49.7 and besting August's 49.6 reading.
"Today’s number is unquestionably a positive and it's not surprising to see the equity market react accordingly," Dan Greenhaus, chief global strategist at BTIG, wrote in a note early in the day.
On the other hand, Markit said its final manufacturing reading for September slipped to 51.1 from 51.5 in August. That marked the index's lowest reading in three years. Also, the Commerce Department said U.S. construction spending dipped 0.6% in August, compared with forecasts from economists for a gain of 0.4%.
Wall Street sentiment was lifted early in the session by impressive gains in Europe where the Euro Stoxx 50 rallied close to 2% despite a new report revealing the eurozone's unemployment rate climbed to a record of 11.4% in August.
Speculation also continues to mount over whether and when Spain's government will officially request a formal bailout. Stress tests released late last week showed Spain's banking system would have a 59 billion euro ($76 billion) capital shortfall in a stressed scenario and seven banks have capital needs.
Fueled largely by the Fed's quantitative easing programs, equities generated solid returns in the third quarter. The blue chips advanced 4.32%, capped off by their strongest monthly performance since June. The S&P 500 is in the midst of a four-month winning streak, picking up nearly 10% over that span.
In the commodities complex, crude oil gained 29 cents a barrel, or 0.31%, to $92.48. Gold climbed $9.40 a troy ounce, or 0.53%, to $1,780.50 -- its highest settle since February 28.
Honeywell (HON) acquired a 70% stake in privately held natural gas company Thomas Russell for $525 million in cash.
Macy's (M) announced plans to boost its hiring of seasonal employees by 2.5% to 80,000 workers this holiday-shopping season.
Cal-Maine Foods (CALM) more than tripled its fiscal first-quarter profits to $9.42 million as sales jumped 12% to $272.9 million. The egg producer warned it expects near record high feed costs due to the summer drought to continue.
The Euro Stoxx 50 soared 1.82% to 2498.81, London’s FTSE 100 advanced 1.37% to 5820.45 and the German DAX climbed 1.53% to 7326.73. In Asia, Japan’s Nikkei 225 slumped 0.83% to 8796.51.