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NEW YORK: Wall Street’s main indexes inched higher on Friday after Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell acknowledged progress in lowering inflation, encouraging expectations the central bank was done with its interest rate hiking campaign.

Powell noted a key measure of inflation was near the Fed’s 2% target and that it was clear the US monetary policy was slowing the economy as expected. He, however, added the central bank was prepared to tighten policy further if necessary.

While a pause in rate hikes has been fully priced in for the upcoming December policy meeting, traders see an about 61% chance of at least a 25 basis point rate cut in as soon as March 2024, up from about 56% before his comments.

“We’ve already reached the point where it’s sufficiently restrictive,” said Robert Pavlik, senior portfolio manager, Dakota Wealth, adding that the US economy was slowing.

“Just how fast it slows and how much a rate cut is needed, we don’t know yet because we haven’t gotten to the point to know exactly where we are.”

A slew of recent data including Thursday’s personal consumption expenditure index signalled easing inflation and bolstered hopes the central bank would now end its interest rate hikes and could start lowering them soon, propelling a rally in equities.

The S&P 500 and Nasdaq finished November with their biggest monthly gain since July 2022, while the Dow Jones rallied to close at its highest level since January 2022.

At 11:43 a.m. ET, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 138.57 points, or 0.39%, at 36,089.46, the S&P 500 was up 13.61 points, or 0.30%, at 4,581.41, and the Nasdaq Composite was up 17.13 points, or 0.12%, at 14,243.35.

Tesla underperformed megacap peers, falling 1.6% as the EV maker priced its Cybertruck above its initial forecast.

Among other top drags, Pfizer fell 4.6% as the drugmaker scrapped its plan to advance a twice-daily version of oral weight-loss drug danuglipron into late-stage studies, delaying its entry into the lucrative market.

US-listed shares of Alibaba slipped 2.2% after Morgan Stanley downgraded the e-commerce giant, citing slower turnaround in customer management revenue (CMR).

Marvell Technology shed 5.0% after the chipmaker’s fourth-quarter revenue forecast fell short of Street estimates.

Ulta Beauty rose 11.0% after the cosmetics retailer raised the lower end of its annual net sales forecast and named Paula Oyibo its new chief financial officer.

Paramount Global climbed 7.6% on a report the media company and Apple have discussed bundling their streaming services at a discount.

Advancing issues outnumbered decliners by a 4.24-to-1 ratio on the NYSE and by a 2.49-to-1 ratio on the Nasdaq.

The S&P index recorded 41 new 52-week highs and one new low, while the Nasdaq recorded 58 new highs and 60 new lows.

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