S&P 500 ends at highest in month, indexes gain for week as earnings kick off

Traders work on the trading floor at the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York City

By Caroline Valetkevitch

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The S&P 500 and Nasdaq finished at their highest levels in a month on Friday, with shares of JPMorgan Chase and other banks rising following their quarterly results, which kicked off the earnings season.

All three major indexes also registered strong gains for the week, leaving the S&P 500 up 4.2% so far in 2023, and the Cboe Volatility index - Wall Street's fear gauge - closed at a one-year low.

On Friday, financials were among sectors that gave the S&P 500 the most support.

JPMorgan Chase & Co and Bank of America Corp beat quarterly earnings estimates, while Wells Fargo & Co and Citigroup Inc fell short of quarterly profit estimates.

But shares of all four firms rose, along with the S&P 500 banks index, which ended up 1.6%. JPMorgan shares climbed 2.5%.

Still, Wall Street's biggest banks stockpiled more rainy-day funds to prepare for a possible recession and reported weak investment banking results while showing caution about forecasting income growth. They said higher rates helped to boost profits.

Strategists said investors will be watching for further guidance from company executives in the coming weeks.

"This has shifted the focus back to earnings," said Peter Tuz, president of Chase Investment Counsel in Charlottesville, Virginia.

"Even though the earnings were basically OK, people are just kind of stepping back, and you're going to see a wait-and-see attitude with stocks" as investors hear more from company executives.

Year-over-year earnings from S&P 500 companies are expected to have declined 2.2% for the quarter, according to Refinitiv data.

Also giving some support to the market Friday, the University of Michigan's survey showed an improvement in U.S. consumer sentiment, with the one-year inflation outlook falling in January to the lowest level since the spring of 2021.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 112.64 points, or 0.33%, to 34,302.61, the S&P 500 gained 15.92 points, or 0.40%, to 3,999.09 and the Nasdaq Composite added 78.05 points, or 0.71%, to 11,079.16.

The S&P 500 closed at its highest level since Dec. 13, while the Nasdaq closed at its highest level since Dec. 14.

For the week, the S&P 500 gained 2.7% and the Dow rose 2%. The Nasdaq increased 4.8% in its biggest weekly percentage gain since Nov. 11.

The U.S. stock market will be closed Monday for the Martin Luther King Jr. Day holiday.

Thursday's Consumer Price Index and other recent data have bolstered hopes that a sustained downward trend in inflation could give the Federal Reserve room to dial back on its interest rate hikes.

Money market participants now see a 91.6% chance the Fed will hike the benchmark rate by 25 basis points in February.

Among the day's decliners, Tesla shares fell 0.9% after it slashed prices on its electric vehicles in the United States and Europe by as much as 20% after missing 2022 deliveries estimates.

In other earnings news, UnitedHealth Group Inc shares rose after it beat Wall Street expectations for fourth-quarter profit but the stock ended down on the day.

Shares of Delta Air Lines Inc dropped 3.5% as the company forecast first-quarter profit below expectations.

Volume on U.S. exchanges was 10.77 billion shares, compared with the 10.81 billion average for the full session over the last 20 trading days.

Advancing issues outnumbered declining ones on the NYSE by a 1.79-to-1 ratio; on Nasdaq, a 1.78-to-1 ratio favored advancers.

The S&P 500 posted 12 new 52-week highs and 2 new lows; the Nasdaq Composite recorded 105 new highs and 8 new lows.

(Additional reporting by Shubham Batra, Ankika Biswas and Amruta Khandekar in Bengaluru; Editing by Subhranshu Sahu, Shounak Dasgupta and Grant McCool)