S&P 500 closes wobbly week at new record high

AP – Technology companies led a late-afternoon rally on Wall Street on Friday that capped a week of wobbly trading with the major stock indexes hitting all-time highs.

The S&P 500 rose 0.5 per cent after spending most of the day wavering between small gains and losses. The gain nudged the benchmark index to a record high for the second day in a row. The tech-heavy Nasdaq composite and the Dow Jones Industrial Average also set new highs.

More companies reported solid earnings, including manufacturer Mohawk Industries and genetic testing company Illumina. Bond yields rose, giving banks a boost. Bumble shares continued to climb after the company made a big splash in its stock market debut the day before.

Optimism that Washington will come through on trillions of dollars of more aid for the economy and encouraging company earnings reports have helped stocks grind higher this month, along with hopes that the coronavirus vaccine rollout will set the stage for stronger economic growth in the second half of this year.

“The one thing that continues to be supportive for the market is just the fact that the risk-reward in the United States (US) equity market still seems to be the best game in town,” said TD Ameritrade Chief Strategist JJ Kinahan.

Pedestrians pass the New York Stock Exchange in New York. PHOTO: AP

The S&P 500 rose 18.45 points to 3,934.83 while the Dow gained 27.70 points or 0.1 per cent to 31,458.40. The Nasdaq added 69.70 points or 0.5 per cent to 14,095.47.

Traders also bid up shares in smaller companies. The Russell 2000 index rose 4.04 points, or 0.2 per cent to 2,289.36.

Despite a week of mostly minor gains and losses for the broader market, the S&P 500 notched its second straight weekly gain.

Investors are hoping for a new round of US government aid as the economic recovery falters. The latest US government report on jobless claims reaffirmed that employment remains a weak spot in the economy, even as vaccine distribution ramps up in the hopes of eventually ending the pandemic. The University of Michigan survey of consumer sentiment came in well below expectations as well, a sign that consumers are wary to spend in the face of economic uncertainty.

Investors do not expect the market to move substantially higher in the near term until there’s more clarity on the future of government stimulus and the direction of the US economy. Democrats have decided to use a legislative process that does not require Republican support to pass the USD1.9 trillion package.

“We’re sort of awaiting catalysts,” said Chief Global Investment Strategist at Charles Schwab Jeffrey Kleintop. “The market is still of the opinion that there will be a vaccine-led, broad economic recovery in the second half of this year.”

A majority of companies have now reported their latest round of earnings and the results have been surprisingly good. Roughly 75 per cent of companies in the S&P 500 have released results, showing overall growth of 2.8 per cent, according to FactSet.

That’s a sharp reversal from the 13 per cent contraction analysts had forecast in late September.

Mohawk Industries shares climbed six per cent after the company posted stronger-than-expected quarterly earnings. Genetic analytics company Illumina jumped 11.9 per cent for the biggest gains in the S&P 500 following its encouraging earnings report. Bumble shares rose a further 7.3 per cent, extending big first-day gains on Thursday on the company’s initial public offering.

Banks made some of the strongest gains as bond yields rose, which allow them to charge more lucrative interest on loans. The yield on the 10-year Treasury rose to 1.20 per cent from 1.16 per cent on late Thursday. Wells Fargo gained 2.5 per cent.