Wall Street moves higher, pushing S&P 500 over 4,000 level

Stocks were moderately higher Thursday, helped by a rise in technology companies as well as smaller companies, which would benefit from a quickly growing economy.

The S&P 500 rose 0.9% as of 1:12 p.m. Eastern, crossing the 4,000-point mark for the first time. The benchmark index is coming off its fourth straight quarterly gain.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 148 points, or 0.5%, to 33,129 and the technology-heavy Nasdaq jumped 1.5%. The Russell 2000 index of small companies was up 1.2%.

It’s a holiday-shortened week for the stock market. The stock exchanges will be closed in observance of Good Friday. Bond trading will be open for half a day, closing at noon Eastern.

Technology stocks were benefiting from another drop in bond yields, which have been the driving force for the market for several weeks. The yield on the 10-year U.S. Treasury note fell to 1.69% from 1.73% the day before. Higher bond yields make stocks seem more expensive by comparison, and tech stocks are among the most expensive after their significant rise last year. Microsoft rose 2.4% and Facebook gained 1.2%.

Electric vehicle charger operators ChargePoint and Blink Charging were up 6.4% and 3.4%. Both companies were benefitting from news out of Washington, where President Joe Biden outlined various measures to support their use as part of his massive infrastructure plan. Part of that plan includes installation of thousands of additional charging stations around the country to make electric car usage more accessible. Tesla was unchanged in afternoon trading after giving up an early gain of 3.7%.

Investors also continue to monitor news about how well the U.S. economy is recovering from the coronavirus pandemic, now that millions of vaccines are being administered daily to Americans as well as around the world. Consumer sentiment has been improving along with construction spending and other measures. The improving economy is prompting investors to shift more money into companies and sectors that will benefit from people getting back to some semblance of a pre-pandemic normal.

The market has been churning while dealing with that shift as beaten-down sectors like airlines and industrial companies start to recover.

“In a way, the churn has reflected health, because more sectors are participating in the moves,” said Ross Mayfield, investment strategy analyst at Baird.

While investors are optimistic that things will recover soon, there’s still a lot of economic pain to go around.

Airlines have been making gains this year as more people bet on a budding recovery for travel, but the industry still faces turbulence ahead. Discount carrier Frontier Airlines has so far underwhelmed on its first day of public trading. The Denver-based airline opened at $18.61, below the low end of a $19 to $21 price target, and is trading at $18.64.

The Labor Department said the number of Americans who filed for unemployment benefits last week rose to 719,000 last week from 658,000 the previous week. That figure was expected to decline. The government will release its monthly jobs report on Friday.

“The employment market is going to be the thing to watch,” Mayfield said. “We’re kind of in a transition period and at some point we’re going to need to see improvement there.”