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S&P 500 posts 15th record this year as tech roars: Markets wrap

Rita Nazareth, Bloomberg News on

Published in Business News

The stock market powered ahead amid a renewed rally in technology companies, with traders also sifting through the latest remarks from a slew of Federal Reserve speakers for clues on the interest-rate path.

The S&P 500 topped 5,100 — hitting its 15th record this year. Traders looked past weak economic data amid bets policymakers will be able to cut rates as soon as June. U.S. two-year yields sank as Fed Governor Christopher Waller noted he’d like a shift in the central bank’s holdings toward a larger share of short-term Treasuries.

“Market momentum remains intense, with any momentary period of weakness quickly bought by bulls,” said Mark Hackett, chief of investment research at Nationwide. “The bear case has come apart as the technicals and fundamentals both support the rally, though elevated valuations and near-universal optimism are things to watch from a contrarian basis.”

The Nasdaq 100 climbed almost 1.5%, a gauge of chipmakers jumped over 4% and Nvidia Corp. led gains in megacaps. Dell Technologies Inc. soared 32% on solid sales. Boeing Co. is in discussions to acquire Spirit AeroSystems Holdings Inc. Treasuries rose across the curve, with two-year yields sinking nine basis points to 4.53%. Oil hovered near $80. Bitcoin rose above $62,000.

With results out from nearly all S&P 500 companies, fourth-quarter earnings look stellar. Growth was nearly 8%, compared with expectations for a 1.2% rise before the season started. Those beats helped to offset macroeconomic uncertainty.

Over the past two months, traders have pushed back their bets on when the Fed will start to cut rates. Fading hopes for easing monetary policy did little to aid equities at the start of the year just as earnings season came into focus. Some 76% of firms surprised to the upside — outperforming the 10-year average of 74%, according to data compiled by Bloomberg Intelligence — prompting Wall Street to confidently snap up equities at a rapid clip.

 

Meantime, the frenzy around artificial-intelligence has blindsided Wall Street forecasters, spurring a race among strategists to keep up with a stock market rally that’s already blowing past their expectations when 2024 began.

Five Wall Street firms have already lifted their forecasts for the S&P 500, which is up over 7% to start the year after rising 24% in 2023. In the past week alone, Piper Sandler & Co., UBS Group AG and Barclays Plc boosted their targets. Two firms — Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and UBS — have done it twice since December.

The S&P 500 wrapped up February with a rally of over 5%, extending its winning run to four consecutive months.

Since 1950, whenever the gauge finished higher in both January and February, full-year returns for the index have averaged 19.8%, according to Adam Turnquist at LPL Financial.

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