S&P 500 ends at new record on stellar tech earnings, surge in U.S. economic growth – MarketWatch

U.S. stocks recorded modest gains on Thursday, but the S&P 500 index ended at a new record, after a round of upbeat earnings reports from technology heavyweights and data confirming a surge in GDP growth in the first quarter.

Investors also weighed dovish remarks made Wednesday by Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell and President Joe Biden’s rollout of a $1.8 trillion package of additional government spending.

What did major benchmarks do?
  • The Dow Jones Industrial Average DJIA, +0.06% gained 239.98 points, or 0.7%, to 34,060.36.
  • The S&P 500 SPX was up 28.29 points, or 0.7%, to end at 4,211.47, surpassing its previous closing record of 4187.62. The broad-based benchmark hit an intraday record of 4,218.78 earlier in the session.
  • The Nasdaq Composite COMP, -1.88% added 31.52 points, or 0.2%, to 14,082.55, after hitting an all-time intraday high at 14,211.57.

On Wednesday, stocks ended with small losses following the Fed meeting, after the S&P 500 notched an intraday record. The Dow fell 164. 55 points, or 0.5%, while the S&P 500 ended 0.1% lower and the Nasdaq Composite lost 0.3%.

What drove the market?

Corporate earnings remained strong, with Apple Inc. AAPL, -3.54% and Facebook Inc. FB, -1.31% delivering much stronger-than-expected results late Wednesday, offering a test to stocks that have failed to break out of a sideways trading range despite a robust earnings season.

Ratings Game: Why Apple’s ‘blowout’ earnings aren’t lifting its stock

Thursday was the busiest day of the quarterly earnings reporting season, with roughly 11% of the S&P 500 index publishing updates. Caterpillar, McDonald’s, Comcast and Merck reported before the market opened. Amazon and Twitter will post results after the market closes.

Currently about 86% of the S&P 500 companies that have reported so far have beaten estimates, with earnings coming in 22.7% above expectations, according to data from Refinitiv. For revenue, 77% of companies have exceeded expectations.

Some analysts warned that a renewed rise in Treasury yields could stymie further gains in stocks, particularly in the tech sector. Rising yields can be a headwind, particularly for growth oriented companies, because they reduce the discounted value of future earnings. A rise in yields in March was credited with adding fuel to a rotation away from tech stocks and other highfliers into more cyclical stocks poised to benefit from the reopening of the economy. Yields have since pulled back, after rising to 14-month highs around 1.78%.

“This week’s steady but notable rise in Treasury yields could be weighing on U.S. equities and if Apple’s earnings beat is unable to set Wall Street alight, it doesn’t bode well for the rest of the earnings season,” said Raffi Boyadjian, senior investment analyst at XM, in a note.

Treasury yields slipped Wednesday afternoon after the Federal Reserve and Powell struck a dovish tone, but were rising again Thursday. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note TMUBMUSD10Y, 1.593% rose 1.8 basis points to 1.639%.

Rising yields appeared to be affecting stocks at the margins Thursday, but it was unlikely they would spark a significant, renewed rotation from tech and other growth stocks into cyclicals unless the 10-year made a new cycle high, said Art Hogan, chief market strategist at National Securities, in a phone interview.

Read: What’s next for Fed? A signal of ‘taper’ from Powell in late August at Jackson Hole

Late Wednesday Biden, in an address to a joint session of Congress, called for bigger government investment in the economy, including a $1.8 trillion proposal for additional spending on child care, education and paid leave partly offset by higher taxes on wealthy Americans.

Capitol Report: The word ‘jobs’ appeared more than 40 times in Biden’s first speech to Congress

In U.S. economic data, first-time jobless benefit claims fell to 553,000 last week from a revised 566,000 a week earlier, the Labor Department said Thursday. With revisions, the reading was the lowest level of claims since the pandemic struck last year.

Gross domestic product, the official scorecard for the U.S. economy, rose at a 6.4% annual pace in the first quarter, the government said Thursday.

 The data show that “the seeds of a virtuous cycle have clearly sprouted, but still have plenty of room for growth in the coming quarters,” said Jim Baird, chief investment officer for Plante Moran Financial Advisors.

“Consumers are flush with cash and COVID fatigue has put them in the mood to spend. We expect that they will,” he said.

Pending U.S. home sales rose 1.9% in March, less than expected, according to the National Association of Realtors, as prices surged and 30-year fixed rate mortgages edged higher from pandemic lows.

Which companies are in focus?
What are other markets doing?
  • The ICE U.S. Dollar Index DXY, -0.08%, a measure of the currency against a basket of six major rivals, was flat.
  • Oil futures rose for a third straight session, with the U.S. benchmark CL00, +0.97% gaining $1.15, or 1.8%, to settle at $65.01 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Gold traded lower for a third straight session, with the June contract GC00, +0.19% down $5.60, or 0.3%, to settle at $1,768.30 an ounce on Comex.
  • The Stoxx Europe 600 index SXXP, -1.43% edged 0.3% lower, while London’s FTSE 100 UKX, -0.67% ended flat. The Shanghai Composite SHCOMP, -0.81% rose 0.5%, while Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index HSI, +0.18% advanced 0.8%.
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