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Dow closes higher on tax reform hopes, notches first weekly gain in three weeks

  • Markets rebounded this week: The S&P 500 closed the week up 0.72 percent while the Dow Jones industrial average about 139 points.
  • President Donald Trump will start publicly campaigning for highly-anticipated tax reform next week, according to his chief economic advisor, Gary Cohn.

U.S. stocks closed mostly higher Friday on new hopes for tax reform, with the Dow Jones industrial average notching its first weekly gain in the last three weeks.

Markets also got a boost from speeches by Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen and European Central Bank President Mario Draghi. Yellen said the financial system is safer now than it was in the years surrounding the housing crisis, while Draghi said the global recovery is "firming up."

The Dow closed 30.27 points higher to end at 21,813.67, with Home Depot and IBM contributing the most to the gains. The S&P 500 ended 0.17 percent higher to close at 2,443.05, after energy and telecommunications stocks gained. The Nasdaq composite fell 0.09 percent to end at 6,265.64.

The Dow pared earlier highs, when it traded over 100 points higher in the wake of Yellen's address.

President Donald Trump will start publicly campaigning for highly-anticipated tax reform next week, according to his chief economic advisor Gary Cohn. In an interview with the Financial Times, Cohn said that the president will begin calling for long-awaited reform next Wednesday when he visits Missouri.

Wall Street has eagerly anticipated major tax reform ever since the 2016 presidential election. Tax code overhaul was a cornerstone of Trump's policy agenda, and a major goal of congressional Republicans, but prospects for a sweeping plan have since faded. Continued turmoil between business leaders and the Trump administration peaked last week, when a number of corporate CEOs left the president's advisory councils.

Markets rebounded this week. The S&P 500 closed up 0.72 percent while the Dow added 139.16 points for the week.

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Mark Luschini, chief investment strategist at Janney Montgomery Scott said he anticipates reform, but still remains uncertain over what form the tax plan may ultimately take.

"It remains likely, but the real question is what form it will eventually take," said Luschini, suggesting that the overhaul may have to be watered down before any legislation passes. "Congress has to double down in advance of upcoming elections."

Traders work as a television monitor displays Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen announcing the Fed's decision to raise interest rates on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) June 14, 2017 in New York City.
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Traders work as a television monitor displays Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen announcing the Fed's decision to raise interest rates on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) June 14, 2017 in New York City.

In Jackson Hole, the heads of global central banks convened for the annual Economic Policy Symposium to discuss global monetary policy.

Janet Yellen, looking back a decade after the initial onset of the financial crisis, said Friday the financial system is safer now than it was then though some adjustments may be needed to regulations.

Though the speech is closely watched in financial markets, Yellen offered no clues about the future of monetary policy, instead focusing on the history of the crisis and what regulators have done in response. Yellen did not comment on the path for future rate increases.

"The events of the crisis demanded action, needed reforms were implemented, and these reforms have made the system safer," she said.

Michael Arone, chief investment officer at State Street Global Advisors, was not surprised by the lack of excitement out of Jackson Hole.

"The most exciting thing out of Jackson Hole is the fishing," Arone joked. "Overall, I think monetary policy is going to remain easy ... You saw the dollar decline, signaling not a whole lot of expectation of a rate hike."

On the other hand, Yellen did mention the likelihood of "the all-too-familiar risks of excessive optimism, leverage, and maturity transformation reemerging in new ways that require policy responses."

Chief market strategist at Prudential Financial Quincy Krosby felt that the fact that Yellen mentioned those risks may leave a 2017 rate hike "on the table."

"Having her mention the risks means to me she's keeping a December rate hike on the table," said Krosby. "They believe keeping rates too low for too long can create financial fault lines. It allows for risk-taking to continue."

"If we do get a tax cut before December, that should help her" in preparing to hike rates, said Krosby.

The euro climbed to $1.1930, session highs, after Draghi's remarks about the strengtehing global economy, it's highest level since January 2015.

Ahead of the speech, some speculated Draghi might use Jackson Hole to hint at when the ECB might begin tightening monetary policy by cutting back on its asset purchase program. He did not comment directly on monetary policy.

"I think both [Draghi] and Yellen had very defensive speeches, they wanted to defend their regulatory accomplishments" said Jeremy Klein, chief market strategist at FBN Securities. Noting the strengthening of the euro over the dollar, Klein added that "the weak dollar should be better for stocks."

Weak inflation data may keep central banks from raising rates this year. Earlier this month, the Commerce Department reported that the personal consumption expenditures (PCE) price index, excluding food and energy, rose 0.1 percent in June after a similar gain in May. The core PCE is the Fed's preferred inflation measure.

Sovereign bonds were up after Yellen's prepared remarks. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note fell to 2.171 percent. Bond yields move inversely to prices. The fall in yields follow months of declines, with the yield on the U.S. 10-year note down about 30 basis points since January.

On the data front, orders for durable goods, items ranging from toasters to aircraft meant to last three years or more, tumbled 6.8 percent last month as bookings for transportation equipment plunged 19 percent. The drop orders was the biggest since August 2014 and followed a 6.4 percent increase in June.

—CNBC's Gina Francolla contributed to this report.