Stocks closed higher, Friday, with the major market gauges posting their best week since mid-July after a flurry of bearish economic data convinced traders any expected changes in the Federal Reserve's stimulus efforts will be relatively small. Most sectors in the S&P 500 ended in the black - albeit by small margins. Relatively defensive sectors like consumer staples and utilities led the gains along with basic materials despite price declines for crude oil and metals in commodities trading.
Retail sales increased by only 0.2% in August, the Commerce Department reported, well below market estimates looking for a 0.5% gain. Excluding the volatile auto and gas component, sales climbed just 0.1%.
Also, Friday, producer prices rose slightly more than expected during August, advancing 0.3% compared with consensus opinion expecting a 0.2% gain. Again, after food and fuel prices were excluded, PPI was unchanged last month. The data were well received by both stocks and bonds, fueling speculation the Federal Reserve will leave monetary policy nearly unchanged when its Federal Open Markets Committee meets next week.
The Reuters/University of Michigan index of consumer sentiment fell to a five-month low of 76.8 in September, well below estimates of 82.0 and lower than the 82.1 index in August. Finally, the Commerce Department also said business inventories rose a slightly larger than expected 0.4%.
Crude oil for October delivery settled 39 cents lower at $108.21 per barrel. October natural gas rose 4 cents to finish at $3.68 per 1 million BTU. December gold fell $22 to $1,308.60 per ounce while December silver declined 43 cents to end at $21.72 per ounce. December copper slid 7 cents to settle at $3.20 per pound.
Here's Where The Markets Stood At Day's End
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