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Wall St edges higher as data dims rate hike chances

JPMorgan, Wells Fargo, Citigroup lower after quarterly results.

US stocks were slightly higher at the open on Friday as June consumer price index data indicated benign inflation that could test the Federal Reserve’s resolve to raise interest rates for a third time this year, while investors parsed earnings reports from big banks.

Shares of JPMorgan Citigroup and Wells Fargo , which have run up in the past few weeks, were lower as their earnings reports failed to excite investors.

Bank of America, Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley will report results next week.

“Companies that miss or just meet expectations or if they don’t give post strong forecasts, will be punished by investors,” said J.J. Kinahan, chief market strategist at TD Ameritrade.

“While the economy is growing, there is still some room to run. People are waiting to hear from CEOs to see if they’re optimistic for the rest of the year. Given where valuations are right now, some sell off in the market won’t be bad in the short term.”

The financial index fell 1.15% and was the only laggard among the 11 major S&P sectors.

Analysts estimate second-quarter earnings for the S&P 500 companies rose 7.8% from a year earlier, with financials projected to have had the third-best profit growth among sectors, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Earnings will be closely watched to see if high valuations are justified in the face of tepid inflation and a recent patch of mixed economic data.

The S&P 500 has been trading at about 18 times earnings estimates for the next 12 months, compared with the long-term average of 15 times.

At 9:41am ET (1341 GMT), the Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 9.98 points, or 0.05%, at 21 563.07, the S&P 500 was up 3.63 points, or 0.14%, at 2 451.46.

The Nasdaq Composite was up 16.27 points, or 0.26%, at 6 290.71.

Ten of the 11 major S&P sectors were higher, with the utilities index’s 0.83% rise leading the advancers.

Data showed that in the 12 months through June, the consumer price index (CPI) increased 1.6% – the smallest gain since October 2016. Economists polled by Reuters had forecast the CPI climbing 1.7% from a year ago.

Other data showed retail sales unexpectedly fell in June for a second straight month.

Chances of a rate hike in December fell to 47% after the release of data points, from 55% at Thursday’s close.

Risk sentiment got a boost this week, with the Dow hitting another record close on Thursday, following dovish comments on interest rate hikes from Federal Reserve chair Janet Yellen.

Advancing issues outnumbered decliners on the NYSE by 1 767 to 792. On the Nasdaq, 1 192 issues rose and 1 123 fell. 

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