By Gerry Sparrow
Stocks Struggle for Direction
Stocks traded around the flatline without any catalyst in either direction. On Thursday, investors welcomed the European Central Bank, signaling its rate-hiking campaign may be nearing its conclusion and a successful IPO that revived optimism in the capital markets. Investors also cheered a stronger-than-forecast retail sales report and a modest increase in core producer prices, overlooking a higher-than-expected headline number.
But sentiment quickly reversed on Friday as a drop in consumer confidence, troubling news in the semiconductor space, and a labor strike at the nation’s major automakers dented Thursday’s optimism, sending major averages to a mixed close for the week.
Inflation Progress Stalls
Surging gasoline prices drove August’s inflation rate to its highest monthly rate this year, rising 0.6%, while the year-over-year Consumer Price Index posted a 3.7% increase, up from July’s 3.2% annual rate. Core inflation (excludes energy and food) was more encouraging, rising 4.3%– down from July’s reading of 4.7%.4
Producer prices also came in higher than expected, rising 0.7% in August, above the estimate of a 0.4% increase and the biggest monthly gain since June 2022. The year-over-year increase was a more modest 1.6%. Gasoline prices significantly contributed to the month’s jump; excluding food and energy, prices aligned with forecasts, ticking up 0.2% in August.5
4. The Wall Street Journal, September 13, 2023.
5. CNBC, September 14, 2023.
PHOTO CREDIT https://www.shutterstock.com/g/Rudzhan
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