Stocks hold steady on Wall Street at close of a brutal week

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NEW YORK (AP) — Stocks are holding steady in early trading on Wall Street Friday at the end of a brutal week.

The S&P 500 gave up an early gain and was down 0.2% after the first hour of trading. The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 128 points, or 0.4%, to 29,897 and the Nasdaq rose 0.4%.

Every major index is on a track for weekly losses after suffering several major drops this week as investors adjust to the bitter medicine of higher interest rates that the Federal Reserve and other central banks are using in their battle against inflation. Higher rates fight inflation but they also slow down the economy and can push prices lower for stocks and bonds.

The benchmark S&P 500 is down more than 6% for the week. Worries over inflation, rising interest rates and a recession risk dragged it into a bear market earlier this week, meaning it had dropped more than 20% from its peak. It’s now about 23% below its record set early this year and back to where it was in late 2020. That effectively erases 2021, which was one of the best years for Wall Street since the turn of the millennium.

The key concern for investors has been whether aggressive interest rate hikes from the Federal Reserve and other central banks around the world will temper record high inflation without pushing the U.S. and other economies into a recession.

On Wednesday, the Fed hiked its key short-term interest rate by three-quarters of a percentage point, triple the usual move. It could consider another increase that big at its next meeting in July. At the same time, the central bank is allowing some of the trillions of dollars of bonds it purchased through the pandemic to roll off its balance sheet. That should put upward pressure on longer-term interest rates. It’s another way central banks have been ripping away supports they earlier propped underneath markets to juice the economy.

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The effort from the Fed to slow the U.S. economy is happening at the same time that some other measures of economic growth, such as retail sales, have been slowing down. That has raised concerns that the Fed’s actions could wind up being too aggressive.

Investors will have a chance next week to again take a measure of the Fed’s thinking when Chair Jerome Powell testifies to Congress. The testimony is scheduled for Wednesday and Thursday.

Technology companies rose. Apple rose 0.8%. Health care companies, retailers and banks were also making gains. Energy companies fell as U.S. crude oil prices dipped 2.9%. Exxon Mobil fell 3.5%.

Bond yields eased. The yield on the 10-year Treasury fell to 3.28% from 3.30% late Thursday.

U.S. markets will be closed Monday in observance of the Juneteenth holiday.

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