S&P Posts Biggest Weekly Gain of 2015


Wall Street jumped as major averages look to add to weekly gains.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 91 points, or 0.51% to 17823. The S&P 500 gained 7 points, or 0.39% to 2089, while the Nasdaq Composite added 31 points, or 0.62% to 5104.

Energy and telecommunications declined, while consumer discretionary, technology and health care, the biggest laggard Thursday, led the way higher.

Today’s Markets

After a week of tumult, the major averages on Wall Street booked weekly gains of more than 3%. The consumer discretionary and technology sectors closed the week with the biggest sector gains.

The S&P 500 saw its biggest weekly gain in more than a year, while the Dow had its best week since October and returned to positive territory on the year.

The health care sector, which saw losses of 1.6% in the prior session, rebounded on Friday and led eight of ten S&P sectors higher as traders digested news from the nation’s biggest health insurers about their future participation in the Affordable Care Act exchanges.

Aetna (NYSE:AET) reaffirmed its 2015 profit outlook of $7.45 to $7.55 a share and said its individual commercial business continued to perform as expected. The move comes a day after UnitedHealth (NYSE:UNH), its rival and the nations’ biggest health insurer, slashed its full-year outlook and said it was considering dropping out of the Affordable Care Act marketplace.

The news sent UnitedHealth shares plunging in Thursday action, providing the biggest weight on the Dow, and sending the broader health care sector down as rival stocks moved lower in sympathy.

Adding to the positive momentum on Wall Street were comments from European Central Bank President Mario Draghi who, at a banking conference in Frankfurt, Germany, vowed that the ECB will “do what it must” to boost consumer prices, hinting one more that the central bank could expand its quantitative easing program and perhaps even lower interest rates to zero in an effort to bolster spending in the region.

In currencies, the euro dropped 0.75% against the U.S. dollar, while the greenback was mixed against a basket of global currencies.

“In order to succeed, he will no doubt need oil prices to cooperate, but the ‘all tools at his disposal’ talk has more than a passing resemblance to his ‘whatever it takes’ game plan,” IG market analyst Alastair McCaig said in a note.

The action in Europe comes during the same period in which the Federal Reserve grows more hawkish about raising interest rates in the U.S. for the first time since the Great Recession.

In fact, St. Louis Fed President James Bullard signaled in a speech that a rate hike was coming “soon,” but gave no more detail than the central bank gave in its October minutes.

Minutes from the central bank’s October meeting, released on Wednesday, showed policymakers were more confident than they have been all year in raising rates as inflation moves closer to the set 2% target, and the labor market reaches full capacity.

The minutes were enough to put Deutsche Bank back in the December liftoff camp.

“Even though we expect a soft November nonfarm payroll report—partially the result of payback from unexpected strength in October, the Fed appears likely to look through any potential November weakness, emphasizing the cumulative improvement over the course of the year as justification for liftoff,” economists at the bank said in a note.

In recent action, the yield on the benchmark 10-year U.S. Treasury bond fell 0.014 percentage point to 2.26%.

Elsewhere in the market, global oil prices fell as worries over large stockpiles persisted. U.S. crude prices rose 0.4% to $40.39 a barrel, while Brent, the international benchmark, was up about 2% at $45.18 a barrel.

Metals were mixed as gold slid 0.17% to $1,076 a troy ounce, while silver shed 0.14% to $14.11 an ounce, and copper edged lower by 1.1% to $2.06 a pound.