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Wall Street ends higher; earnings, jobs report in focus

Published 02/01/2024, 06:29 AM
Updated 02/01/2024, 06:52 PM
© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Traders work on the floor at the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York City, U.S., January 31, 2024.  REUTERS/Brendan McDermid/File Photo

By Stephen Culp

(Reuters) -U.S. stocks rebounded on Thursday as investors looked to a spate of high-profile earnings and the Friday's employment report a day after the Federal Reserve quashed lingering bets that interest rate cuts could begin as early as March.

While a broad rally sent all three major U.S. stock indexes sharply higher, the tech-laden Nasdaq advanced the most.

"There’s further digestion of the Fed," said Thomas Martin, Senior Portfolio Manager at GLOBALT in Atlanta. "It’s still a growth market and yesterday's sell-off was an overreaction. So today we’re getting a rally."

Shares of Meta Platforms (NASDAQ:META) rose in extended trading after reporting better than expected revenue and declaring its first-ever dividend.

Amazon.com (NASDAQ:AMZN) also gained in post market trading following its earnings release.

Apple Inc (NASDAQ:AAPL) dipped in extended trading after profit, revenue beat analyst estimates but China sales missed targets.

On Wednesday, the Federal Open Markets Committee (FOMC) left its policy rate unchanged as expected. At his press conference, Fed Chair Jerome Powell called a March rate cut "unlikely," resetting market expectations of a dovish Fed pivot in the first quarter, and prompting a steep sell-off.

The KBW Regional Banking index fell 2.3%, weighed down by the 11.1% drop in New York Community Bancorp (NYSE:NYCB)'s shares after the company reported pain in its commercial real estate portfolio, sparking renewed fears over the health of U.S. regional lenders.

The broader S&P Banking index fared better, ending the day off 1.4%.

Fourth quarter reporting season is going full-bore, with 208 of the companies in the S&P 500 having reported. Of those, 80% have delivered consensus-beating earnings, according to LSEG.

Analysts now expect aggregate S&P 500 earnings growth of 6.4% year-on-year for the October-December period, an improvement over the 4.7% growth seen on Jan. 1, per LSEG.

A raft of economic data showed rising productivity helping to cap labor costs, while an increase in announced layoffs and weekly jobless claims provided further evidence of softening in the labor market, which is viewed by the Fed as a precondition to assuring a sustainable downward path for inflation.

"We see these data, on the eve of the labor report tomorrow, as consistent with a healthy but moderating labor market," said Bill Northey, senior investment director at U.S. Bank Wealth Management in Billings, Montana. "(These reports) are consistent with our view of the economic path for 2024; that it will continue to grow, but at a slower pace."

The S&P 500 climbed 1.25% to end the session at 4,906.19 points. The Nasdaq gained 1.30% to 15,361.64 points, while Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 0.97% to 38,519.84 points.

Of the 11 S&P 500 sector indexes, 10 rose, led by consumer discretionary, up 1.98%, followed by a 1.97% gain in consumer staples.

Merck advanced 4.6% after the drug maker's upbeat fourth-quarter results.

Qualcomm (NASDAQ:QCOM) fell 5.0% on concerns over Android sales in China.

Honeywell (NASDAQ:HON) was off 2.4% after the diversified industrial conglomerate provided disappointing first-quarter guidance.

© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Traders work on the floor at the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York City, U.S., January 31, 2024.  REUTERS/Brendan McDermid/File Photo

Across the U.S. stock market, advancing stocks outnumbered falling ones by a 3.0-to-one ratio.

Volume on U.S. exchanges was relatively heavy, with 12.0 billion shares traded, compared to an average of 11.6 billion shares over the previous 20 sessions.

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