U.S. equity futures rose Friday as Wall Street looked to cap off a banner start to 2023 and the latest inflation data showed continued easing. Futures tied to the Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 105 points, or 0.3%. S&P 500 futures ticked higher by 0.4%, and Nasdaq 100 futures advanced 0.6%. Apple shares rose nearly 1% before the bell to trade above a $3 trillion market cap. Elsewhere, Nike shares fell about 3% after the apparel giant reported a weaker-than-expected quarterly profit. Friday is a pivotal day for investors, marking not just the end of the June, but also the conclusion of the second quarter and the first half. Here is where the indexes stand as of Thursday’s close:

  • For June: The S&P 500 has gained 5.18% and is on pace for its best monthly performance since January. The Nasdaq has advanced 5.07%, and both it and the broad-market index are heading for a fourth consecutive positive month. The Dow has climbed 3.69%, and it’s on track for its best month since November.
  • For the second quarter: The S&P 500 has risen 6.99% and is tracking for a third straight quarter of gains. The Nasdaq touts a gain of 11.2% for back-to-back positive quarters. The Dow has jumped 2.55%, but it’s also on pace for a third winning quarter.
  • For year to date and the first half: The S&P 500 has popped 14.51%, and it’s heading for its best first half since 2018. The Nasdaq has surged nearly 30%, tracking for its best first half since 1983. The 30-stock Dow has a more modest gain of 2.94%.

The three major averages are also on pace for winning weeks, with the S&P 500 and Dow up more than 1% each, and the Nasdaq tracking for a 0.7% increase. Wall Street got another hint of encouraging inflation news on Friday. The May core personal consumption expenditures price index showed encouraging signs of easing inflation. The gauge, closely watched by the Federal Reserve, increased 0.3% in May and inline with Dow Jones estimates. Core PCE increased 4.6% from a year ago, below the 4.7% expected by economists. When including the volatile food and energy components, inflation was considerably softer — up just 0.1% on the month and 3.8% from a year ago. Those were down respectively from the 0.4% and 4.3% increases reported for April. Stephanie Lang, chief investment officer at Homrich Berg, said there’s a push and pull between a soft- landing scenario that’s driven by strong economic data and the Fed, which is positioning for a tougher tone going forward. “Even though the economic data has been strong … the Fed has continued to surprise on the upside in terms of how far they could go with their tightening,” she said. “They’ve made it clear that inflation remains their top priority, and they can do that because the job market has remained so strong, but you know, their ultimate goal is to tighten enough that you see some economic weakness so there’s less inflationary pressure.” Asia-Pacific markets were mixed on the final trading day of the first half of the year. Mainland China markets were higher: The Shanghai Composite gained 0.62% to close at 3,202.06 and the Shenzhen Component rose 1% to close at 11,026.58. Factory activity data in China contracted for a third straight month, according to the National Bureau of Statistics release. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index was flat in its final hour of trade. Japanese stocks fell as investors digested Tokyo’s core consumer price index, which remained at levels above the central bank’s target for thirteen straight months. The Nikkei 225 fell 0.14% to 33,189.04 and the Topix slid 0.33% to 2,288.60. In South Korea, the Kospi rose 0.56% to close at 2,564.28. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 gained 0.12% to end its session at 7,203.3. Oil prices rose Friday but were on course for a fourth consecutive quarter of losses amid concerns over sluggish global economic activity and fuel demand. Benchmark Brent crude futures for September delivery rose 30 cents, or 0.4%, to stand at $74.81. The less-traded front-month contract, which expires on Friday, was up 41 cents at $74.75. The contract was on track for a 6% decline in the three months to the end of June, marking a fourth straight quarterly decline. Prices are at their lowest in 2 years. U.S. West Texas Intermediate crude (WTI) rose 37 cents, or 0.5%, to $70.24. The contract is down 7% on a quarterly basis, its second consecutive quarterly drop. Gold prices are set for their first quarterly decline in three on Friday as expectations of more interest rate hikes by the U.S. Federal Reserve and its global peers dimmed the outlook for bullion. Spot gold was down 0.2% to $1,904.67 per ounce, down 3.3% for the quarter ending June 30. U.S. gold futures shed 0.2% to $1,913.10.