Rates from Bankrate.com

  • Mortgage
  • Credit Cards
  • Auto

Stocks Gain as 'Bad News Is Good News' Eases Investor Concerns

Tickers in this article: INTC JPM SWY ^DJI ^GSPC ^IXIC

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- U.S. stocks gained Friday as a raft of soft U.S. economic data eased investor concerns the Federal Reserve will scale back its stimulus program.

TheS&P 500 gained 0.27% to close at 1,687.99. The Dow Jones Industrial Average finished the regular trading day higher by 0.49%, to 15,376.06. The Nasdaq added 0.17% to close at 3,722.18.

The Fed is scheduled to begin its two-day policy meeting on Sept. 17 with a policy declaration coming the following day. The results of that meeting could have an outsized impact on global markets as the Fed decides whether to scale back its economic stimulus program. The central bank currently purchases $85 billion a month in mortgage-backed securities and longer-term Treasuries.

"That's a big deal -- that's what everybody's waiting for," Allan Flader, a financial adviser at RBC Wealth Management, in a phone interview. "How much are they going to taper? Are they going to taper? What the heck is going on?" RBC forecats a $15 billion reduction in monthly asset purchases ," Flader said.

Investors view the Fed's economic stimulus program as a positive for stocks while equity analysts generally credit quantitative easing for having catapulted U.S. markets to recent all-time highs after bottoming in March 2009.

On the economic calendar, the Commerce Department reported Friday that August retail sales grew 0.2% month-over-month, and showed slower growth from July's revised 0.4% increase. Economists surveyed by Thomson Reuters were expecting retail sales in August to rise 0.4%.

"This morning's retail sales report was disappointing as back-to-school shopping fell short," Lindsey Piegza, chief economist at Sterne Agee, wrote in a note to clients. "And while the Fed isn't necessarily watching the monthly retail sales data as a catalyst to policy change, a slowdown in spending is indicative of underlying weakness."

Consumer sentiment reported its lowest reading since April as the mid-month Reuters/University of Michigan index hit 76.8 in September. Economists surveyed by Thomson Reuters were expecting a reading of 82.

The September reading "reflects the surge in interest rates and the drop in stock markets, although the latter has been partially reversed since the survey's sample period ended. We suspect that third-quarter consumption growth will struggle to match second-quarter's 1.8% annualized," Capital Economics wrote in a note on Friday.

Producer prices in August grew 0.3%, while the core rate increased at the same pace from a year ago at 1.2%, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Economists were looking for producer prices to rise 0.2% in August after no change in July, while core prices were expected to rise 1.3%.

Business inventories for July rose 0.4%, the largest increase since January. Economists were looking for a 0.2% boost.