Wall Street was mixed on Wednesday after stronger-than-expected retail sales data offered evidence of resilience in the U.S. economy, while also fueling expectations of more interest rate hikes by Federal Reserve in the months ahead.
A Commerce Department report showed retail sales surged 3% in January, driven by purchases of motor vehicles and other goods. Economists polled by Reuters had estimated a sales would increase by 1.8%.
That follows data on Tuesday showing U.S. consumer prices accelerated in January, boosting expectations that the U.S. central bank will raise the policy rate at least twice more this year to the 5-5.25% range.
“The good news from retail, and broadly from the stronger economy, has been mostly priced in,” said Ross Mayfield, an investment strategist at Baird in Louisville, Kentucky. “At the same time, that strength has taken market expectations of rate cuts off the table and moved the terminal Fed funds rate a little bit higher.”
Fueled by a rebound in growth stocks that were hammered in last year’s stock market downturn, the S&P 500 has climbed almost 8% so far in 2023. A better than expected quarterly earnings season has provided cautious optimism.
More than half of the S&P 500 firms have reported earnings so far, and nearly 70% of those have topped profit expectations, as per Refinitiv data. That compares to a long-term average of 66%.