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Stocks End Higher as Wall Street Closes Out a Tough Week

Stocks rise as investors grapple with the spread of the COVID-19 delta variant and question when the Fed might begin tapering asset purchases.

Stocks finished higher Friday, a bright ending to a tough week, as investors grappled with the spread of the highly contagious COVID-19 delta variant, the impact of the virus on growth and China's continued crackdown on its tech sector.

Sentiment received a lift Friday after Dallas Federal Reserve President Robert Kaplan said he could adjust his views on the tapering of asset purchases by the Fed if the delta variant impacted the economy.

Kaplan said earlier this month he wanted the Fed to announce tapering plans in September and begin the gradual wind-down in purchases the following month.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average finished up 225 points, or 0.65%, to 35,120, the S&P 500 rose 0.81% and the Nasdaq gained 1.19%. 

For the week, the Dow dropped 1.1%, the S&P 500 slipped 0.6% and the Nasdaq declined 0.7%.

The yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury was up Friday to 1.253%.

Oil prices slid again Friday, with West Texas Intermediate crude suffering a steep weekly decline as rising coronavirus infection rates trimmed bets on energy demand, particularly in the aviation and travel sectors.

Stocks finished a choppy Thursday session mixed on concerns the Federal Reserve could begin tapering stimulus this year, even as surging coronavirus infections caused by the delta variant raised worries about the pace of the U.S. recovery.

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"Upticks in COVID-19 cases and a downward spiral in Afghanistan are creating a crisis of confidence, at a time when many investors are on holiday," said Rod von Lipsey, managing director at UBS Private Wealth Management.

"August consumer sentiment and soft airline booking data reflects these uncertainties. We should expect continued market volatility through Labor Day, he added.

Apple  (AAPL)  will delay the return to corporate offices until January at the earliest because of surging COVID-19 cases and new variants, Bloomberg reported, citing a memo sent to employees. The tech giant previously had pushed out its office return to October from early September. The shares finished 1% higher.

Moderna  (MRNA)  added 2% even after The Washington Post reported that health officials are probing links between the drugmaker's coronavirus vaccine and the risk of heart enlargement issues in young people.

China approved new privacy laws on handling user data. U.S.-listed shares of Alibaba  (BABA)  ended 1.6% lower Friday after slumping nearly 7% on Thursday.

Deere  (DE)  posted stronger-than-expected fiscal third-quarter earnings and boosted its full-year profit forecasts as strong crop prices and renewed farming equipment demand boosted the company's top and bottom lines. The stock moved down 2.1%.

Shares of Foot Locker  (FL)  leaped 7.3% after the retailer posted much better-than-expected second-quarter earnings. The company cited strength in its women’s and kids’ footwear lines and "broad demand" for its apparel and accessories.