US stocks end choppy session mostly up

Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, Feb 22, 2018.
Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, Feb 22, 2018. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

NEW YORK (AFP) - Wall Street stocks finished mostly higher on Thursday (Feb 22) as worries about increased interest rates ebbed somewhat, but market insiders continued to warn of more volatility ahead.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average led the major indices, jumping 0.7 per cent to close at 24,962.48.

The broad-based S&P 500 edged up 0.1 per cent to 2,703.96, while the tech-rich Nasdaq Composite Index dipped 0.1 per cent to 7,210.09.

The session was a clear improvement after two days of losses, yet trading remained choppy as the major indices finished well below their session highs.

Analysts are girding for a continuation of the recent volatility on equities markets amid expectations the Federal Reserve will boost interest rates three or four times in 2018.

Higher interest rates could crimp growth and prod investors to steer funds away from equities towards bonds. Investors have ping-ponged between feeling encouraged at the pickup in economic growth and worried about inflation.

But after a year of steady upward movement, some think stocks prices are inflated.

"Despite the correction, the market is still too high," said Phil Davis of PSW Investment, who said stock valuations remain excessive relative to corporate earnings.

"The market needs to come back down." Davis said.

"I have a bullish overall outlook but at this particular moment it is overpriced."

Petroleum-linked shares bounced on higher oil prices. Halliburton and Dow member ExxonMobil both rose 1.3 per cent, while ConocoPhillips advanced 2.2 per cent.

In general, industrial companies were the standouts of the Dow, with Boeing winning 1 per cent, Caterpillar 2.3 per cent and 3M 1.7 per cent.