Capping a volatile week on Wall Street, stocks pared earlier gains Friday as investors weighed strong corporate earnings against fears about rising rates and the prospect of slowing economic growth around the world.
The Dow Jones industrial average ended up 0.25%. The Nasdaq composite closed down 0.48% after an earlier rally, and the S&P 500 was mostly flat.
Overnight, China reported its economy expanded at the slowest pace in a decade during the third quarter. Gross domestic product rose by an annualized 6.5%, a rate not seen since 2009 and compared with expectations for 6.6% growth.
Top Chinese policymakers, including Vice Premier Liu He, jumped in to reassure businesses and investors who were already shaken by the steepest fall in Chinese equities in three years. Jason Draho, head of Americas asset allocation at UBS, said talk of stimulus programs offered markets some comfort.
"How much and how soon the stimulus will arrive is uncertain, so far to soon to say this is a turning point," he said. "Good news on China's growth and trade are two catalysts the market needs to see to get more positive on equities."
Meanwhile, some are worried the Federal Reserve could raise borrowing rates at a pace that may become slightly restrictive. In an attempt to keep inflation in check and the economy from overheating, the central bank signaled this week that it was on track to gradually continue tightening.
Accendo Markets research analyst Artjom Hatsaturjants said in an email that solid earnings are helping Wall Street brush off wider concerns.
"Next week will bring the peak of the US reporting wave … and investors are looking to capture as much of that positive earnings sentiment as possible moving into the weekend," Hatsaturjants said.
Friday morning, the National Association of Realtors reported existing home sales fell 3.4% in September to a seasonally adjusted annualized rate of 5.15 million, missing the 5.29 million that economists surveyed by Bloomberg were expecting. Data out earlier this week showed housing starts and building permits also fell more than expected in September.
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