Stocks ended November with a bang, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average jumping 520 points on Thursday and financial markets posting their biggest monthly gain in more than a year.
The Dow rose 1.5% to close at 35,951, with investors cheered by a new government report showing that inflation is continuing to ease. The Personal Consumption Expenditures index — the Federal Reserve's preferred inflation gauge — fell to 3.5% in October excluding volatile food and energy prices, down from 3.7% the previous month and nearly 5% as recently as May, new labor data show.
"Progress, in short, has been startlingly rapid compared to policymakers' expectations," analysts with Pantheon Macroeconomics said in a report.
The sharp fall in inflation since another closely watched barometer — the Consumer Price Index — peaked at 9.1% in June of 2022 has raised investor hopes that the Fed will shelve its efforts to cool economic growth by pushing up borrowing costs. Some Wall Street analysts now forecast that the central bank could move to trim its benchmark interest rate by the middle of 2024.
Wall Street analysts are also increasingly confident that the U.S. will dodge a recession despite the Fed's aggressive campaign to quash inflation. Although job growth has slowed — pushing the nation's unemployment rate to 3.9%, the highest level since January of 2022 — most economists now think the labor market will avoid the kind of steep downturn that historically has followed rapid increases in interest rates.
All three leading stock indexes posted solid gains in November. The Dow rose 8.8%, while the broader S&P 500 added 8.9% — its biggest monthly increase since July of 2022. Driven by strong corporate profits, the tech-heavy Nasdaq jumped nearly 11% in November.
"The rally has been dramatic in its move," said Quincy Krosby, chief global strategist for LPL Financial.
"What you want to see is that next leg up as we close the year," she said. "November is a strong month for the market, but so is December."
—The Associated Press contributed to this report
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