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Stock market today: Wall Street gains ground following its best month in more than a year

File - Traders work on the New York Stock Exchange floor in New York on November 3, 2023. Wall Street is mixed early Friday after closing out the best month of the year. (AP Photo/Ted Shaffrey, File)

NEW YORK — Stocks gained ground on Wall Street as the market comes off its best month in more than a year. The S&P 500 rose 0.6% Friday, marking its fifth straight week of gains. The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 294 points and the Nasdaq composite added 0.6%. In company news, Ulta Beauty soared 10.8% after reporting better-than-expected results for its latest quarter and raising its forecast. Gainers outnumbered decliners by roughly 6-to-1 on the New York Stock Exchange. Investors entered December on track to close out the year with solid gains. Treasury yields and crude oil prices fell.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. AP’s earlier story follows below.

Stocks are broadly higher on Wall Street in afternoon trading Friday as the market comes off its best month in more than a year.

The S&P 500 rose 0.6% after shifting between small gains and losses earlier in trading. The benchmark index is close to extending a four-week winning streak. The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 271 points, or 0.8% to 36,225 as of 3:36 p.m. Eastern. The Nasdaq composite rose 0.5%.

Gainers outnumbered decliners by roughly 5 to 1 on the New York Stock Exchange.

Industrial stocks were among the biggest gainers. Construction equipment maker Caterpillar rose 2.5% and railroad operator Union Pacific rose 3%.

European markets were higher and Asian markets closed mostly lower.

Investors entered December on track to close out the year with solid gains. The S&P 500 is up more than 19% and the Nasdaq composite is up 36% in 2023. Smaller-company stocks have also recently turned higher for the year following the market’s recent rally. The Russell 2000 index is now up more than 5% for the year.

Friday's market rally comes amid growing expectations among investors that the Federal Reserve may cut interest rates a soon as early next year.

“A lot of investors now are accelerating when the Fed is likely to initiate its first cut to the end of the first quarter of 2024, rather than the the prior forecast of some time in the second quarter,” said Sam Stovall, chief investment strategist at CFRA.

Hope that the Federal Reserve is finally done raising interest rates in its fight to control inflation helped push markets steadily higher through much of November. Recent economic data supports that view.

On Thursday, the Fed’s preferred measure of inflation showed a cooling last month. Inflation has been easing overall since the middle of 2022 when the Fed started aggressively raising its benchmark interest rate. That followed mostly encouraging updates on economic growth and consumer confidence that have raised hopes that the Fed will achieve its sought-after “soft landing,” which involves cooling the inflation without throwing the economy into a recession.

A government report on Friday showed that construction spending continued rising in October, topping economists' forecasts for growth. Wall Street will get several updates next week on the job market, including the government's closely watched monthly employment report for November.

Speaking at Spelman College in Atlanta on Friday, Fed Chair Jerome Powell said “It would be premature to conclude with confidence” that the central bank has raised its benchmark interest rate high enough to fully defeat inflation. He added that it's not the time to speculate on when the Fed will cut rates.

That didn't dash Wall Street's optimism of a Fed rate cut happening as soon as next spring. Investors see a nearly 56% chance of it happening in March, up from just a 21% chance a week ago, according to data from CME Group.

Treasury yields have been broadly falling amid sentiment that the Fed's aggressive rate hike policy is finished and potentially heading for a reversal. The yield on the 10-year Treasury, which influences mortgage rates, fell to 4.21% from 4.34% late Thursday. It was as high as 5.00% in October.

The yield on the two-year Treasury fell to 4.56% from 4.70% late Thursday.

Falling bond yields have helped relieve pressure on stocks, especially technology stocks.

Traders were reviewing a mixed batch of earnings reports and financial updates Friday. Computer maker Dell fell 4.2% after giving investors a weaker-than-expected revenue forecast. Beauty products retailer Ulta Beauty jumped 10.7% after reporting results that beat estimates.

Oil prices remained relatively steady and have been broadly easing for several months, as have U.S. gasoline prices. That is helping to relieve pressure on American families and businesses from rising prices.

Damian J. Troise And Alex Veiga, The Associated Press

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