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S&P 500 closes at record high; earnings, rate outlook in focus

Published 02/07/2024, 06:30 AM
Updated 02/07/2024, 07:03 PM
© Reuters. Traders work on the floor at the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York City, U.S., February 6, 2024.  REUTERS/Brendan McDermid/File Photo

By Sinéad Carew and Johann M Cherian

(Reuters) -Wall Street's major stock indexes rose on Wednesday, with the benchmark S&P 500 registering a record closing high, as investors applauded overall strength in U.S. earnings and monitored Federal Reserve comments for clues on interest rates.

Shares in Chipotle Mexican Grill (NYSE:CMG) finished up 7.2%after it topped analyst estimates for quarterly profit and sales on strong demand for its burritos and rice bowls even as prices rose in its report issued late on Tuesday

Ford (NYSE:F) shares rose 6% as the automaker increased its first-quarter dividend and decided to scale back investments in new capacity for loss-making electric vehicles.

With more than half of the S&P 500 companies having reported quarterly results, 81.2% surpassed profit expectations, according to LSEG data on Tuesday.

"The optimism around, for the most part, better earnings results, continues to carry the day and continues to keep the market in a positive bias," said Michael James, managing director of equity trading at Wedbush Securities in Los Angeles.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 156.00 points, or 0.40%, to close at 38,677.36 while the S&P 500 gained 40.83 points, or 0.82%, to finish at 4,995.06. The Nasdaq Composite gained 147.65 points, or 0.95 %, to 15,756.64.

The S&P notched another record closing high while the Nasdaq was still almost 2% shy of its record close of 16,057.44 reached in November 2021.

Among the 11 S&P 500 sectors, nine advanced, led by a 1.4% gain in the tech sector followed by consumer discretionary, which rose 1.1%. The weakest sector was consumer staples, which was down 0.08%.

James noted that investors have been fighting off "negativity overhanging the market" due to concerns about the banking and commercial real estate sectors since last week when New York Community Bancorp (NYSE:NYCB) reported a surprise loss and cut its dividend.

"Elevated anxiety levels become self-fulfilling," he said, also pointing to volatility among other regional banks. However, the KBW regional bank index pared some losses to close down 0.1% after falling more than 2% earlier in the day.

New York Community Bancorp (NASDAQ:CTBI) shares rebounded in afternoon trading to close up 6.7%, shaking off an early decline of more than 13%. The lender's newly appointed executive chairman Alessandro DiNello, vowed to cut its exposure in the troubled commercial real estate sector, where it took loan write-offs.

On Sunday Fed Chair Jerome Powell ruled out a March interest rate cut, and now traders were looking for fresh clues from other Fed officials.

Minneapolis Fed President Neel Kashkari noted he expects two to three rate cuts this year for now, while Fed Governor Adriana Kugler said more assurance is needed before lowering rates.

Shares in Snap slumped 34.6%, hitting a two-month low after it missed quarterly revenue estimates, as the Snapchat owner struggled to compete for advertising dollars.

Uber (NYSE:UBER) forecast quarterly core profit and gross bookings above estimates. However, its shares closed up just 0.3% as it deferred announcements around capital allocation plans to its investor day on Feb. 14.

Fortinet (NASDAQ:FTNT) shares rose 3.8% after the cybersecurity firm's fourth-quarter profit beat estimates. U.S.-listed shares of Alibaba (NYSE:BABA) Group fell on its downbeat quarterly revenue report.

VF Corp (NYSE:VFC) shares sank 9.7% after missing expectations for third-quarter results, with the Vans sneaker maker also announcing CFO Matt Puckett's exit this year.

Enphase Energy (NASDAQ:ENPH) shares surged 16.9% as the solar inverter maker expects inventory levels to normalize and demand for its products to pick up by the end of second quarter.

Advancing issues outnumbered decliners by a 1.2-to-1 ratio on the NYSE where there were 409 new highs and 80 new lows.

On the Nasdaq 1,855 issues advanced and 2,452 declined with declining issues outnumbering advancers by a 1.3-to-1 ratio.

© Reuters. Traders work on the floor at the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York City, U.S., February 7, 2024.  REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

The S&P 500 posted 79 new 52-week highs and 4 new lows while the Nasdaq recorded 234 new highs and 144 new lows.

On U.S. exchanges 11.25 billion shares changed hands compared with the 11.58 billion moving average for the last 20 sessions.

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