Thursday, February 22, 2024

Stocks end mostly higher, enough for S&P 500 to set record

by Associated Press

A wobbly day of trading on Wall Street left major stock indexes mostly higher Thursday, nudging the S&P 500 to an all-time high.

The benchmark index bounced back from an early slide to rise 0.3%, its seventh straight gain. The S&P 500 eclipsed the record high it set on Sept. 2 and is on pace for its third straight weekly gain.

The Nasdaq also recovered from a sluggish start, adding 0.6%. The Dow Jones Industrial Average ended barely in the red for the day, weighed down by a steep drop in IBM. The blue-chip index is just below its all-time high set on Aug. 16.

A mix of companies that rely on direct consumer spending led the gains. Home Depot rose 1.8% and Pool Corp. gained 7.7%.

Technology and health care stocks also helped lift the market. U.S. crude oil prices fell 1.1% and weighed down energy stocks. Devon Energy fell 3% and Schlumberger fell 1.3%.

Financial companies also fell broadly. Capital One slid 4.4% and Discover Financial Services dropped 6.1%.

The uneven finish came as investors continued to review the latest company earnings reports, with global supply chain problems and the impact from rising inflation a key focus. Many companies have warned that the supply chain issues and overall higher costs will hurt operations and Wall Street is trying to gauge just how much it will sting corporate profit growth and margins.

“The market is getting used to the idea that inflation is going to run hotter and be higher than it was pre-pandemic,” said Liz Young, chief investment strategist at SoFi.

Companies seem to be managing those higher costs, which is encouraging investors who had been uncertain in a very choppy market for weeks, said Sam Stovall, chief investment strategist at CFRA.

Tesla rose 3.3% after reporting encouraging third-quarter profits, despite parts shortages and shipping delays. Footwear company Crocs vaulted 9.3% after reporting solid third-quarter results, noting it has taken steps to navigate its own supply chain headaches.

“Investors were willing to rotate rather than retreat while they waited for better news to take bigger and longer-term positions,” he said.

Wall Street is also concerned that rising inflation will force more companies to raise prices on goods, which could result in lower consumer spending and a stalled economic recovery. Procter & Gamble, which has already been raising prices on baby, home and fabric care products amid rising commodity and freight costs, said this week it will also start boost prices on a range of other goods, including skin care and oral care products. Last week, Delta Air Lines warned that rising fuel prices will lead to a “modest” loss in the fourth quarter.

The S&P 500 rose 13.59 points to 4,549.78. The Dow slipped 6.26 points, or less than 0.1%, to 35,603.08. The Nasdaq gained 94.02 points to 15,215.70.

Smaller stocks edged higher. The Russell 2000 rose 6.42 points, or 0.3%, to 2,296.18.

Several carmakers and automotive products companies made gains following Tesla’s latest earnings. Ford rose 3.2% and AutoZone rose 2.2%.

IBM slumped 9.6%, the biggest decline in the S&P 500, after reporting quarterly revenue that fell shy of analysts’ forecasts.

WeWork rose 13.5% in its second attempt to become a publicly traded company. The company, which provides shared workspaces, had a spectacular collapse during its first attempt to do so two years ago and is emerging after the pandemic closed millions of square feet of office space.

Shares in a special-purpose acquisition company, or SPAC, that is planning on taking a new media company launched by former President Donald Trump public soared after news of the venture broke late Wednesday. Digital World Acquisition vaulted 356%. The company, which went public Sept. 8, has merged with Trump Media & Technology Group, which plans to launch a social media app and streaming video service.

Bond yields moved higher. The yield on the 10-year Treasury rose to 1.69% from 1.63% late Wednesday.

European markets closed lower and Asian markets ended mixed.

Outside of earnings, investors received an encouraging update on the labor market. The Labor Department reported that the number of Americans applying for unemployment benefits fell last week to a new low point since the pandemic erupted.

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