A jam-packed week of economic data and corporate earnings amounted to only modest movement in US equities, as stocks closed out a hectic week of news Friday only somewhat higher, AFP reports.
Belying any stereotypical notions about how the dog days of summer might mean a quiet period for economic news, the calendar this week had it all -- the monthly jobs report, a Federal Reserve monetary policy meeting, big-time corporate earnings, even meetings by the European and British central banks.
Both the Dow and S&P 500 closed out the week at record highs, but neither gained significantly compared with the torrid gains earlier in the year.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average added 99.53 (0.63 percent) over the week, ending at 15,658.36.
The broad-based S&P 500 rose 18.02 (1.07 percent) to 1,709.67. The tech-rich Nasdaq Composite Index notched a more impressive rise, jumping 76.43 (2.12 percent) higher to 3,689.59.
"Expectations were for a week that possibly could be market-moving," said William Lynch, director of investments at Hinsdale Investments. "But on balance, the news was kind of mixed."
Did the data point to a glass half-empty, or one half-full? It was hard to tell.
Wednesday's second-quarter GDP report showed growth of 1.7 percent, better than the 1.1 percent expected by analysts. However, the report also included a steep downgrade in first-quarter GDP growth, which is now estimated at 1.1 percent instead of 1.8 percent.
Similarly, Friday's all-important monthly jobs report showed the unemployment rate declining from 7.6 percent to 7.4 percent in July. But that promising figure was shadowed by a weaker-than-expected addition of just 162,000 jobs.
"When all is said and done, we're still in an economy that's showing very slow growth," Lynch said.
The tepid economy is hardly a new thing for the equity markets. Nor is the Fed's easy-money policy, which was essentially kept on auto-pilot this week.
The Federal Open Market Committee's statement Wednesday described economic growth as "modest" and gave no specifics on when the Fed's bond-buying program will be tapered but sounded a bit less optimistic about the economic outlook. As a result, many observers rated it more "dovish" than expected.
"We're doing great and the Fed's going to keep the party going," said Lee Munson, chief investment officer at Portfolio LLC.
The week's corporate earnings also did not shatter the trend from the first part of earnings season, when the bulk of companies reported solid profit growth but feeble revenue figures.
That axiom held for both Pfizer and Merck. The two pharma giants exceeded expectations for profits, but fell short of expectations for revenues.
Profits for oil giants ExxonMobil and Chevron came in well below expectations, but that disappointment was offset by solid figures from fellow Dow member Procter & Gamble. Overall, companies in the S&P 500 are on track to grow profits by 4.4 percent for the quarter and to see revenues decline by 0.76 percent, according to S&P Capital IQ.
With no seismic changes to the earnings outlook, investors fixated on some company-specific happenings that moved individual stocks.
News that activist hedge fund Third Point took a stake in fertilizer company CF Industries lifted shares nearly 12 percent Monday. Industrial gas company Air Products & Chemicals also rose dramatically on news that hedge fund Pershing Square took a big stake in the firm.
Market watchers also raised an eye at new dealmaking activity this week, though the general consensus seems to be that merger and acquisition activity remains slow.
The biggest deal was a merger between advertising giants Publicis and Omnicom Group creating a $35.1 billion global giant. Investors also watched the latest in the Dell buyout drama.
In a twist on Friday, the Dell special committee endorsed the latest proposal from the Michael Dell-led consortium that raises the price of its takeover offer in exchange for a change the voting system.
The economic calendar for the first full week of August is quiet. The Institute for Supply Management publishes its July PMI on the services sector on Monday.
The Commerce Department reports the US trade balance for July on Tuesday, and on Thursday the Labor Department releases weekly numbers on claims for unemployment insurance benefits.
Most of the major companies have already reported earnings, but there are a few stragglers, including Walt Disney and Time Warner.