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Tech Stocks Lead U.S. Market Rally Amidst Inflation Cooling Trends

Tech-related momentum stocks led a surge in U.S. stocks on Thursday, buoyed by fresh economic data suggesting a cooling trend in inflation. Interest rate-sensitive megacaps propelled the tech-heavy Nasdaq to a decisive edge, while the S&P 500 closed positively, and the Dow ended nearly unchanged.

The Producer Prices Index (PPI) came in softer than anticipated, reinforcing the notion of subdued price growth. Brian Nick, senior investment strategist at Macro Institute, noted the data supported a narrative of a benign ‘soft landing’ scenario, indicating a natural rebound from potential overreactions the previous day.

Wednesday’s hotter-than-expected Consumer Price Index (CPI) data had previously sparked a sharp decline in stocks and pushed benchmark Treasury yields to November highs. This report dashed hopes for as many as three rate cuts by the central bank before year-end, potentially commencing at its June policy meeting.

Brian Nick added that despite the concerns raised by the CPI data, there’s a suggestion that the Federal Reserve might not view the Personal Consumption Expenditures (PCE) numbers as dire, which contributed to the market’s rebound.

However, while the PPI data provided some relief, it hinted that inflation’s descent towards the Fed’s 2% target might be more gradual than anticipated.

New York Fed President John Williams indicated there’s no immediate need to adjust monetary policy, while Richmond Fed President Thomas Barkin expressed uncertainty about the persistence of pricing pressures.

Investors are now turning their attention to the first-quarter earnings season, eagerly awaiting results from major U.S. banks such as JPMorgan Chase & Co, Citigroup Inc, and Wells Fargo & Co.

The day’s market performance saw the Dow Jones Industrial Average essentially flat, while the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq Composite posted gains. Tech led among the S&P 500 sectors, while financial shares lagged behind.

The FANG+ index of megacap momentum stocks notably outperformed, gaining significantly. However, CarMax and Globe Life faced declines due to missed estimates and allegations of fraud, respectively. On the other hand, Rent the Runway soared after announcing its reliance on artificial intelligence for growth.

In merger news, Vertex Pharmaceuticals revealed its acquisition of Alpine Immune Sciences for approximately $4.9 billion in cash, boosting Alpine’s stock.

Advancing issues slightly outnumbered declining ones on both the NYSE and Nasdaq, with the S&P 500 marking new highs and lows.

Trading volume on U.S. exchanges was slightly lower compared to the 20-day average.

Lockheed Martin Lands $4.1 Billion Contract for Missile Defense System Advancement

Lockheed Martin (NYSE:LMT) announced on Thursday that it had secured a contract valued at up to $4.1 billion from the U.S. government’s Missile Defense Agency to advance the development of its battle command system. The contract focuses on the enhancement and modernization of the Command and Control, Battle Management, and Communications (C2BMC)-Next system. C2BMC serves as a crucial hardware and software interface within the U.S. ballistic missile defense system, enabling coordinated responses to emerging threats.

The company highlighted that a key aspect of C2BMC-Next will involve bolstering global integration, potentially linking this extensively tested and operationally deployed system with allied nations for the first time. The contract spans from May 1, 2024, through April 30, 2029, with the option to extend until April 30, 2034. Lockheed Martin intends to carry out the upgrades at its new facilities in Huntsville, Alabama, and Colorado Springs, Colorado.

As the weekend beckons, the stock market takes its cue from a Friday symphony, dancing between optimism and caution like a trader on caffeine. With whispers of economic data and earnings reports echoing through the trading halls, it’s a day where fortunes are made, lost, and sometimes just lightly nibbled upon like hors d’oeuvres at a lavish party. So, as the closing bell rings and Wall Street’s finest head off to enjoy their well-deserved weekend, let’s raise a glass to the unpredictable waltz of the markets on this fine Friday.