NEW YORK: US stock indexes were mixed on Friday morning as weak retail sales data for March suggested the economy was losing steam, although upbeat earnings from a trio of big banks helped assuage fears of further stress in the sector.
JPMorgan Chase & Co, Citigroup Inc and Wells Fargo & Co beat analysts’ estimates for first-quarter profit, signaling resilience through the banking crisis in March. Their shares rose between 1.2% and 6.2%.
The S&P 500 banks index surged 3.3% to a one-month high, while the KBW Regional Banking index rose 0.8%.
“JPM is one of those household names in a sector that we were the most concerned about reporting better-than-expected earnings and that is certainly putting a bid in the stock and a bid in the market,” said Art Hogan, chief market strategist at B Riley Wealth in Boston.
Dampening the mood, however, data showed retail sales fell more than expected in March as consumers cut back on purchases of motor vehicles and other big-ticket items, raising fears of an economic slowdown.
“The retail sales are kind of a disappointment,” said Robert Pavlik, senior portfolio manager at Dakota Wealth. “The report indicates that the economy may actually slow more to the point where we have to start worrying about a recession more than just inflation.”
The S&P 500 and the Dow closed at almost two-month highs on Thursday as data showed cooling inflation and a loosening labor market, fueling optimism that the Federal Reserve could be nearing the end of its aggressive interest rate-hike cycle.
Following Friday’s retail sales data, traders stuck to bets the US central bank will raise rates by another 25 basis points in May.
Despite a year of aggressive rate increases, US central bankers “haven’t made much progress” in returning inflation to their 2% target and need to move interest rates higher still, Federal Reserve Governor Christopher Waller said .
Among other earnings-driven moves, BlackRock Inc rose 2.4% after the world’s largest asset manager beat analysts’ estimates for quarterly profit as investors continued to pour money in its various funds.
At 9:37 a.m. ET, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 7.95 points, or 0.02%, at 34,037.64, the S&P 500 was up 3.06 points, or 0.07%, at 4,149.28, and the Nasdaq Composite was down 22.83 points, or 0.19%, at 12,143.45.