US stocks open higher with help from Big Tech companies

Stocks are starting higher on Wall Street with an assist from technology companies, which have seen big swings in recent days. The S&P 500 index was up 0.7% in the early going Thursday, while the tech-heavy Nasdaq was up 1.7%. The Dow Jones Industrial Average was up a more modest 0.2%, a day after closing at its latest record high. The recent return of stability to the bond market has been reassuring investors after a sudden spike in long-term interest rates over the past month prompted traders to dump tech shares, which started to look expensive after months of gigantic gains.

Stocks climbed in Europe and Asia on Thursday after a key measure of inflation in the U.S. came in lower than expected, easing worries that price pressures could push interest rates higher.

Shares rose in Paris, Frankfurt and Tokyo on Thursday and U.S. futures also were higher. The Shanghai Composite index jumped 2.4% as China ended its annual legislative session with no major changes in policy.

The Labor Department reported that U.S. consumer prices, a key measure of inflation at the consumer level, rose 0.4% in February, the biggest gain in six months, led by a jump in gasoline prices. But core inflation, excluding food and energy, posted a much smaller 0.1% gain, easing fears that the inflation might surge as the economy recovers from the pandemic.

The timing could not have been better, Stephen Innes of Axi said in a commentary.

“As Biden’s . . . $1.9 trillion fiscal stimulus plan was passed by the House, CPI data revealing softer sequential core pressures were there to greet and subdue fears of runaway inflation,” Innes said. “Upshot being, U.S. inflation data appears to have bought some space for, and lent credence to, prolonged and unwavering stimulus.”

Treasury yields fell broadly following the report, including the benchmark 10-year Treasury note, which influences interest rates on mortgages and other consumer loans. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note slipped to 1.49% on Thursday after rising as high as 1.60% late last week.

Germany’s DAX edged 0.1% higher to 14,547.22 and the CAC 40 in Paris picked up 0.4% to 6,016.43. Britain’s FTSE rose 0.1% to 6,730.99. U.S. futures pointed to a strong start, with the contract for the S&P 500 up 0.7% and that for the Dow industrials 0.4% higher.

In Asian trading, Tokyo’s Nikkei 225 index gained 0.6% to 29,211.64 and the Hang Seng in Hong Kong added 1.7% to 29,385.61. South Korea’s Kospi surged 1.9% to 3,019.70, buoyed by a 1.4% rise in shares in Samsung Electronics, the biggest listed company. In Australia, the S&P/ASX 200 was almost unchanged at 6,713.90.

The Shanghai Composite index jumped 1.8% to 3,417.38 as Chinese leaders prepared to wrap up the annual session of the largely ceremonial legislature.

In New York, the S&P 500 rose 0.6% to 3,898.81. The Dow gained 1.5% to a record 32,297.02, thanks partly to a 6.4% jump in Boeing. The Dow’s previous all-time high was about two weeks ago.

The Nasdaq slipped less than 0.1% to 13,068.83, taking it about 7.3% below the all-time high it reached on February 12.

Traders also bid up shares in smaller companies, extending the Russell 2000’s winning streak to a fourth day. The index picked up 1.8%, to 2,285.68.

Investors are also betting the latest $1.9 trillion in government stimulus will help lift the U.S. economy out of its coronavirus-induced malaise. The House approved the sweeping pandemic relief package over Republican opposition on Wednesday, sending it to President Joe Biden to be signed into law. The package would provide $1,400 checks for most Americans and direct billions of dollars to schools, state and local governments, and businesses.

In other trading, U.S. benchmark crude oil gained 66 cents to $65.10 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It picked up 43 cents to $64.44 per barrel on Wednesday. Brent crude, the international standard, gained 65 cents to $68.55 per barrel.

The U.S. dollar was at 108.45 Japanese yen, up from 108.41 yen on Wednesday. The euro rose to $1.1969 from $1.1928.