Markets Gain in Volatile Session

Stocks ended higher on Thursday in what was a turbulent trading session as traders bet that the Federal Reserve may be nearing the end of its rate hiking cycle.

The Dow Jones Industrials came off their highs of the day, but still finished positive 75.14 points to 32,105.25.

The S&P 500 maintained gains of 11.75 points to 3,948.72.

The NASDAQ Composite finished in the green 117.44 points, or 1%, to 11,787.40. Microsoft, Nvidia and Apple all advanced. Tech was the hardest hit part of the market as the Federal Reserve raised rates nine straight times in about a year. The turn lower in rates this month is causing investors to rotate back into tech shares.

Thursday, Apple touched $161.55 a share, its highest level since mid-September.

It’s easy to argue “as goes Apple, so goes the market.” Apple’s market value tops the S&P 500 at $2.51 trillion, more than 21% above No. 2 Microsoft ($2.06 trillion). Apple now trades 7% above both its 50-day moving average of $148.34 and its 200-day moving average of $147.88, a sign of momentum that analysts who focus solely on price charts love to see.

The Fed’s decision and subsequent comments by Chair Jerome Powell at the conclusion of the policymakers’ two-day meeting on Wednesday weighed on stocks.

The central bank raised rates by 25 basis points, as expected. It also hinted that its inflation-fighting tightening campaign could be nearing the end, with the removal of the phrase “ongoing increases” from its statement. While Powell said that “rate cuts are not in our base case” for the remainder of 2023, traders priced in expectations of the central bank lowering rates this year.

Jobless claims unexpectedly nudged lower last week, pointing to a labour market that remains extremely tight.

Initial filings for unemployment insurance totaled 191,000 for the week ended March 18, below the estimate for 198,000, the U.S. Labor Department reported Thursday. That was a decline of 1,000 from the previous period.

Prices for the 10-year Treasury gained ground, lowering yields higher to 3.40% from Wednesday’s 3.44%. Treasury prices and yields move in opposite directions.

Oil prices stepped back $1.65 to $69.25 U.S. a barrel.

Gold prices spiked $51.50 to $1,989.10 U.S. an ounce.