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Wall Street notches all-time highs as rate cut hopes lift investor spirits

File photo. Photograph:( Reuters )

AFP New York, United States Jul 13, 2019, 06.26 AM (IST)

All three of Wall Street's main indices popped to fresh records on Friday, ending the week on an emphatic note as investors grew increasingly confident the Federal Reserve will cut interest rates at the end of the month.

In congressional testimony this week, Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell told lawmakers "crosscurrents" increased risks to the US economic outlook -- strongly suggesting a rate cut was in the cards at the Fed's next policy meeting in less than three weeks.

The broad-based S&P 500 closed above the 3,000-mark for the first time ever.

Jack Ablin of Cresset Wealth Advisors said investors also were encouraged by the outlook for what could be better-than-expected corporate revenue.

However, with corporate earnings season set to begin in earnest, S&P 500 companies are forecast to see weaker profit growth compared to last year, according to FactSet. It would be the second consecutive quarter of slowing profit, something that has not happened in three years.

"But the next question we expect is, where do we go from there?" he said.

"The market needs to feed on something. The appetite of the market for low rates is insatiable. The question now is can they shift their attention to earnings."

While the positive sentiment initially filtered through to Asia and Europe on Friday, the momentum petered out in late European trading.

Meanwhile, China's economy grew at its slowest rate in nearly three decades in the second quarter, hit by the US-China trade war and weakening global demand, according to an AFP survey of analysts.

The world's second-largest economy likely expanded 6.2 per cent in April-June, according to the poll of 10 economists ahead of the official gross domestic product report Monday.

Oil prices rise

Elsewhere, geopolitical tensions rose after armed Iranian boats threatened a British oil tanker earlier in the week provided support for oil prices, although gains were limited by longer-term oversupply concerns.

Iran's menacing of the BP supertanker on Wednesday appeared to be in retaliation for Britain's seizure of the Iranian Grace 1 tanker off Gibraltar on July 4.

"With Iran seeking retribution for the UK's actions around Gibraltar, there is a distinct possibility that we could see an upside shock to prices," said IG trading group analyst Joshua Mahony. 

Britain said it will send a second warship to the Gulf, while the Pentagon said it was discussing military escorts for vessels in the Gulf.

But the rises in oil prices as a result of the incident have been capped by an oversupplied oil market, according to traders.

And the IEA on Friday said the recent decision by oil-producing countries to prolong cuts in output will not fundamentally change the outlook for the market.