Stocks Notch Week Since July Ahead of Next Week's Fed Meeting

U.S. equity markets reversed course to trade higher into the close as global volatility settled a bit ahead of next week’s FOMC meeting, allowing the S&P and Nasdaq to book their best week since mid-July, and the Dow’s best week since March.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average was 81 points higher, or 0.50% to 16411. The S&P 500 rose 5 points, or 0.27% to 1957, while the Nasdaq Composite ticked up by 17 points, or 0.36% to 4813.

Today’s Markets

The final trading day of the week was calmer than those of the recent past as worries about when the Federal Reserve will begin to hike short-term interest rates continued to grip global equity markets.

Many forecasts calling for the first rate hike to come in September had been revised out in recent weeks: Goldman Sachs (NYSE:GS) now sees December as the starting point, while Barclyas has pushed out its timeline to March. Deutsche Bank and Bank of America (NYSE:ABAC) still see the first increase coming after next week’s two-day Federal Open Market Committee meeting, which concludes with a policy statement on Thursday afternoon.

With economic data continuing to be a focus for the data-dependent Federal Reserve, traders kept a close eye on two key reports Friday. The Labor Department’s producer prices index showed prices at the wholesale level were flat in August compared to expectations for the a slight fall of 0.1% Excluding the food and energy components, prices rose 0.3%, more than the 0.1% increase forecasted.

Meanwhile, a gauge of consumer sentiment from the University of Michigan fell to 85.7 in September, from a final August reading of 91.9. The gauge was forecast to have risen to 91.2.

As traders kept an eye on the global economic picture, it was also a sobering day as Wall Street observed a moment of silence at 9:25 a.m. at the New York Stock Exchange to remember the lives lost during the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

BGC Partners and Cantor Fitzgerald also commemorated those who perished 14 years ago as the firms hosted their annual Charity Day. The event has raised more than $100 million, and donates 100% of the proceeds each year to the Cantor Fitzgerald Relief fund and other charities worldwide.

On the commodities front, following a more than 4% increase in the prior session for U.S. crude, global oil prices declined sharply on the heels of a new report from Goldman Sachs that said cheaper oil is likely to persist through next year as prices bottom out over the next three quarters.

Goldman sees its 12-month oil price forecast for WTI at $45 a barrel, but added that operational stress could cause a slowdown in production to happen too gradually, and could force prices as low as $20 a barrel.

“It is important to emphasize that as we now believe the market requires non-OPEC production to shift from our prior expectation of modest growth to large declines in 2016, the uncertainty on how and where the adjustment will take place has increased,” Goldman wrote in the note.

Economists there cited higher oil production from the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, or OPEC, and resilient non-OPEC production excluding U.S. production, as well as slowing demand growth.

U.S. crude prices declined 2.81% to $44.63, while Brent, the international benchmark, fell 1.53% to $48.14.

Metals followed the downward trend: Gold declined 0.54% to $1,1103 a troy ounce, while silver slipped 0.98% to $14.47 an ounce. Copper traded up 0.31% to $2.45 a pound.

In currencies, the U.S. dollar was higher against a handful of global currencies, while the euro traded up 0.59% against the greenback. The yield on the 10-year U.S. Treasury bond was 0.035 percentage point lower, to 2.187%.

Overseas markets also traded to the downside as traders there worry about recent short-lived rallies in the global equity markets. In Europe, the Euro Stoxx 50, which tracks large-cap companies in the eurozone shed 0.65%, the German Dax fell 0.49%, while the French CAC 40 declined 0.68% and the UK’s FTSE 100 declined 0.42%.

“The early selloff seen in European indices is certainly a worry, with the recent bounce representing more of a whimper than any sort of recovery” IG market analyst Joshua Mahony said in a note.  “The emphasis of economic announcements is certainly based upon the U.S., yet from a technical standpoint, the European indices certainly hold more potential to spark markets back to life.”

Over in Asia, traders ended the session on a negative note ahead of a slew of economic reports due out over the weekend including Chinese retail sales, industrial production, and fixed-asset investment numbers.

“[That] means Monday is likely to start with a bang, and if recent data is anything to go buy, it will most likely point toward yet more trouble in the beleaguered Asian powerhouse,” Mahony said.

China’s Shanghai Composite index ended Friday’s trading flat, up 0.07%. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng declined 0.27%, while Japan’s Nikkei shed 0.19%.