Stocks advance, J&J shares gain after breakup announcement

Stocks advanced Friday after a mixed session in the markets, with both earnings and inflation data remaining at the center of investor attention.

The S&P 500 gained, and both the Dow and Nasdaq also closed out Friday’s session in the green after a volatile trading week. Shares of Dow component Johnson & Johnson (JNJ) rose after the company said it was planning to break up into two separate companies focused on consumer health products and pharmaceuticals, respectively, in a move echoing a similar breakup announcement by General Electric (GE) earlier this week. 

As of Friday’s close, however, the S&P 500 ended the week marginally lower after five straight weeks of gains. But after weeks of advances, it still remained just slightly below all-time highs. 

“We’ve got a market that is just incredible. No matter what it’s going up, and that shouldn’t be much a surprise given how much money has been pushed into the system,” Lenore Hawkins, Tematica Research chief macro strategist, told Yahoo Finance Live. “There’s just a lot of money chasing not a whole lot of alternatives.” 

That said, a hotter-than-expected inflation print earlier this week was one key concern for investors, and reinforced that elevated price pressures were not as fleeting as many had initially expected during the recovery. Consumer prices rose at their fastest clip in 31 years in October, or by a marked 6.2% versus the same month last year, to accelerate from September’s already lofty 5.4% year-on-year rise.

The rise in prices carries implications both for corporations— many of which have had to try and pass on rising prices to end consumers to preserve margins — and for the Federal Reserve. Market pricing currently suggests the Federal Reserve will step in by mid-next year to raise interest rates to try and temper the broadening inflationary trends. 

Still, many economists have reaffirmed that the inflationary pressures will eventually ease, albeit while likely settling at a higher level than had been present before the pandemic. 

“Inflation should moderate. We’re talking about settling at 2%, 2.5% over the course of the next 12 months,” Gabriela Santos, JPMorgan Asset Management global market strategist, told Yahoo Finance Live. “So we’re still talking about real wage gains, and that’s extremely supportive certainly of people’s livelihoods, but also of consumption and hence the economy overall.”

“We do expect a big re-acceleration in growth starting this quarter and throughout next year, [and] 5% average growth just over the next three quarters,” she added. “So we would characterize this not as stagflation, but as reflation. And that difference is, reflation is actually quite good for earnings growth and quite good for the stock market, especially cyclical sectors.” 

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