US STOCKS-Nasdaq set for best qtr since 2020, latest inflation data a boost

BY Reuters | ECONOMIC | 03/31/23 03:05 PM EDT

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February PCE growth slows


S&P 500 set to gain for second straight quarter


Indexes up: Dow 0.8%, S&P 0.9%, Nasdaq 1.3%

(Updates to late afternoon, adds NEW YORK dateline)

By Caroline Valetkevitch

NEW YORK, March 31 (Reuters) - The Nasdaq was set to post its biggest quarterly gain since June 2020, with U.S. stocks rallying on Friday as signs of cooling inflation bolstered hopes the Federal Reserve might soon end its aggressive interest rate hikes.

The S&P 500 was on track to post a second straight quarter of gains, led by the technology sector's 20% rise.

The quarterly gains came despite a sharp sell-off in bank stocks following the collapse of two regional banks earlier this month.

The Commerce Department report Friday showed U.S. consumer spending rose moderately in February while inflation cooled.

"The equity market seems to be delighted with the slight tick lower in inflation, as it should be. It underscores that the Fed's campaign is, in fact, working, albeit slowly," said Quincy Krosby, chief global strategist at LPL Financial in Charlotte, North Carolina.

The Fed has been raising rates to cool inflation, and traders' bets of a 25-basis-point rate hike in May stood at 53.8% on Friday, according to CME Group's Fedwatch tool.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 266.83 points, or 0.81%, to 33,125.86, the S&P 500 gained 38.09 points, or 0.94%, at 4,088.92 and the Nasdaq Composite added 152.08 points, or 1.27%, at 12,165.56.

The Philadelphia semiconductor index edged higher, extending its strong gains for the quarter.

Advancing issues outnumbered decliners on the NYSE by a 3.97-to-1 ratio; on Nasdaq, a 2.25-to-1 ratio favored advancers.

The S&P 500 posted 15 new 52-week highs and no new lows; the Nasdaq Composite recorded 69 new highs and 106 new lows.

(Reporting by Caroline Valetkevitch; additional reporting by Amruta Khandekar and Ankika Biswas; additional reporting by Johann M Cherian Editing by Vinay Dwivedi and Maju Samuel)

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