Stocks set another record as S&P 500 closes at all-time high of 5,029.73



U.S. stocks set another record Thursday following some mixed reports on the economy.

The S&P 500 rose 29.11 points, or 0.6%, to 5,029.73 and squeaked by its prior all-time high set last week. The Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 348.85, or 0.9%, to 38,773.12, and the Nasdaq composite climbed 47.03, or 0.3%, to 15,906.17.

TripAdvisor gained 9.2% after reporting stronger results for the latest quarter than analysts expected. Tech giant Cisco Systems also reported better-than-anticipated results, but its stock sank 2.4% after it cut its profit forecast for its full fiscal year.

The mixed set of data on the economy included a report showing sales at U.S. retailers weakened by more in January from December than expected. It was a striking drop in spending by U.S. households, whose strength has helped keep the economy out of a recession, even with high interest rates. The upside for financial markets is that it could also remove some upward pressure on inflation.

A separate report said fewer U.S. workers applied for unemployment benefits last week than expected, the latest signal of a solid job market despite high-profile announcements of layoffs. Other reports on Thursday morning painted a mixed but better-than-feared picture of the manufacturing industry.

Altogether, the economic reports helped send Treasury yields lower in the bond market. The yield on the 10-year Treasury fell to 4.24% from 4.27% late Wednesday.

Treasury yields have been swiveling recently. Stronger-than-expected reports on inflation, the job market and the overall economy have forced traders on Wall Street to delay their forecasts for when the Federal Reserve will begin cutting interest rates.

The Fed has already hiked its main interest rate to the highest level since 2001. The hope is that high rates will squeeze the economy just enough to get inflation down to a comfortable level without causing a recession.

After earlier hoping the Fed may offer some relief and begin cutting rates in March, the thinking on Wall Street is now that won’t happen until May or maybe June. That delay in turn knocked stocks down from their record highs.

Still, the widespread expectation remains for cuts to rates to come this year. It’s just the timing that is changing. In the meantime, the economy continues to look solid, which should help drive growth in profits for companies. That’s helping to keep stocks from falling very much.

CBRE Group jumped 8.5% for one of the largest gains in the S&P 500 after it joined the parade of companies beating analysts’ expectations for profit in the last three months of 2023. Despite difficult conditions for commercial real estate, the company also reported stronger revenue than expected.

Shake Shack was another winner, rising 26% after the burger chain reported better profit and revenue than expected. Its total revenue jumped 20% from a year before, more than forecast.

Wells Fargo climbed 7.2% and was one of the stronger forces pushing the S&P 500 upward. Regulators at the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency removed a consent order issued in 2016, which required the bank to revamp how it sells products to customers after it was caught opening unauthorized accounts.

On the losing end of Wall Street was Deere, which fell 5.2% even though the maker of agricultural equipment’s profit for the latest quarter topped expectations. Deere gave a profit forecast for this fiscal year that fell short of analysts’ estimates, saying conditions in the industry are getting back to normal following a couple record years.

One risk that could upset things is the upcoming U.S. election. The Fed does not like to shift from holding rates steady to cutting too close to an election, according to Bank of America strategists led by Mark Cabana. So if the Fed doesn’t move by June, the possibility rises that it may end up holding rates steady until late 2024 or early 2025.

Still, Cabana said where yields ultimately go will depend more on how far the Fed ends up cutting rates than on when it begins.

In stock markets abroad, the Nikkei 225 rose 1.2% after Japan said its economy shrank for a second consecutive quarter. It dropped behind Germany to become the world’s fourth-largest economy, and the weakness raised expectations that Japan’s central bank may keep interest rates very easy.

The United Kingdom also reported its economy shrank for a second straight quarter. The FTSE 100 index in London rose 0.4%, while stocks were up a bit more across Europe.

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AP Business Writers Matt Ott and Elaine Kurtenbach contributed.

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