Dow, S&P 500 end higher in volatile session after rout

The S&P 500 and the Dow gained ground in a late rally Thursday as upbeat retail sales data offset recessionary fears and simmering US-China trade tensions.
Traders work after the opening bell at the New York Stock Exchange on Aug 15, 2019.
Traders work after the opening bell at the New York Stock Exchange on Aug 15, 2019.PHOTO: AFP

NEW YORK (AFP) - Wall Street stocks finished a choppy session mostly higher on Thursday (Aug 15), staging a tentative recovery after strong United States retail sales and Walmart earnings gave a reassuring view of US consumers.

At the closing bell, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 0.4 per cent at 25,578.00, and the broad-based S&P 500 advanced 0.3 per cent to 2,847.66, rebounding a little from Wednesday's rout.

But the tech-rich Nasdaq Composite Index slipped 0.1 per cent to finish the session at 7,766.62.

The modest recovery came after US stocks fell sharply on Wednesday on rising recession fears, with the Dow suffering its worst session of 2019.

"It's a schizophrenic market," said Lindsey Bell, investment strategist at CFRA Research, who attributed the market's lurches to changing headlines on the US-China trade war and fluctuations in US Treasury yields.

The yield on the 30-year bond hit an all-time low, while the 10-year note plunged to its lowest level in three years before recovering somewhat.

Tumbling longer-term yields are seen as an indicator of waning confidence in medium- and long-term growth.


US retail sales jumped 0.7 per cent in July, topping expectations and reassuring investors that US consumers remain on a strong footing.

But on the downside, US manufacturing production dropped 0.4 per cent during the same month, as the trade war weighed on the sector.

Among individual stocks, Walmart surged 6.1 per cent after raising its full-year profit forecast. The retail giant expressed confidence that it could mitigate the effects of higher tariffs in the US-China trade war more effectively than smaller retailers.

Fellow big-box chains Target and Costco also gained, along with Amazon. But other retailers fell sharply, including Best Buy, which lost 4.5 per cent, Macy's, which lost 3.8 per cent, and Gap, which slumped 7.1 per cent.

Dow member Cisco Systems plunged 8.6 per cent on disappointment over the company's forecasts.

General Electric dove 11.3 per cent after accounting expert Harry Markopolos - who sounded the alarm about the Bernie Madoff investment scam - accused the company of fraud, an allegation the industrial giant strongly denied.

GE said the claims were tainted by the accuser's desire to profit off a drop in the company's share price.