Monday, April 15, 2024

Stock market today: Wall Street drifts near its record levels as markets remain calm

by BIZ Magazine

NEW YORK (AP) — U.S. stocks are drifting near record levels Monday as they head for the final stretch of what looks to be their latest winning month.

The S&P 500 was virtually flat in morning trading after closing last week at an all-time high. The Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 59 points, or 0.2%, as of 10:30 a.m. Eastern time, and the Nasdaq composite was 0.2% higher.

Berkshire Hathaway was swinging after Warren Buffett’s company reported stronger results for the end of 2023 than analysts expected. Class-B shares of the company, whose subsidiaries include GEICO, Fruit of the Loom and Brooks running shoes, initially jumped more than 3% but later fell back to a loss of 0.5%.

The famed investor warned shareholders not to expect any more “eye-popping performance” because there are no bargains available in the market of big enough size to make a meaningful difference. Buffett is notorious for buying companies when they’re cheap.

That follows broader criticism from some financial analysts that prices all along Wall Street have gone too high in its big run since Halloween.

The S&P 500 is on track to close out its fourth straight winning month and is coming off its 15th winning week in the last 17. And the stock market may not have been cheap even when it bottomed out in October 2022. That marked the priciest bear-market low in history, according to some measures of stock prices against corporate earnings, says Doug Ramsey, chief investment officer of Leuthold.

This recent rally got going last October amid hopes that inflation is cooling enough for the Federal Reserve to cut interest rates several times this year. Such cuts would relax the pressure on the economy and financial system, while goosing investment prices.

Expectations are still high for rate cuts to come eventually this year, but traders have been delaying their forecasts following some stronger-than-expected reports on the economy. That data in the meantime raises hopes that growth in profits for companies can strengthen, which helps stock prices too.

Domino’s Pizza jumped 6.3% after it reported profit for the last three months of 2023 that topped analysts’ expectations.

Amazon stock was 0.3% higher after it officially joined the Dow Jones Industrial Average. It replaced Walgreens Boots Alliance, which fell 1.6%.

Homebuilder stocks were higher, but they wobbled a bit after a report showed sales of new homes strengthened last month by less than economists expected. Toll Brothers was up 1%, and Lennar was clinging to a 0.3% gain.

Last week, stocks got a big boost after another blowout report from Nvidia added more chum to the frenzy that’s already built around artificial-intelligence technology. Nvidia, whose chips help power AI technologies, rose another 1.2% Monday, and it’s already up 61% so far this year.

Earnings reporting season for the big companies in the S&P 500 is in its tail end, but this week still offers updates from several big names. They include several that could give color on how well spending by U.S. households is holding up. Such spending has been one of the main reasons the U.S. economy has blasted through expectations for a possible recession.

Best Buy, Lowe’s and TJX, the parent company of T.J. Maxx and Marshalls, will all report this week. So will several big tech-related companies, including Salesforce.com and HP.

On the economic calendar, the U.S. government on Thursday will give the latest update on the measure of inflation that the Federal Reserve prefers to use. It’s usually a less impactful report, because data on inflation at the consumer and wholesale levels for the month have already been released.

But those reports came in hotter than economists expected, which could lead to more volatility this time around. The hope on Wall Street is that inflation will continue to cool fast enough to convince the Federal Reserve to begin cutting rates by June.

Bond yields were holding relatively steady, helping to keep things calm in the stock market. The yield on the 10-year Treasury ticked up to 4.27% from 4.25% late Friday.

In stock markets abroad, indexes were mixed. Japan’s Nikkei 225 added 0.3% to set another record after recouping the last of the losses suffered in the bursting of its “bubble” economy at the end of 1989.

Stocks were lower across much of the rest of Asia and mixed in much of Europe.

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