Tech Companies Lead US Stocks Broadly Higher
Stocks are ending broadly higher on Wall Street, allowing the market to recoup some of the ground it lost a day earlier and more in Wednesday’s Stock Market Update.
Investors appeared to welcome new insights from the Federal Reserve’s last meeting of policymakers. The central bank released the minutes from the two-day March meeting, which showed that a majority of Fed officials believed the central bank could keep interest rates unchanged the rest of this year.
At the meeting, the Fed left its key policy rate unchanged and trimmed its rate hikes outlook this year from two to none. Some economists believe the Fed could actually start cutting rates later this year if the economy slows further.
Technology stocks led the market higher. Chipmaker Advanced Micro Devices rose 2% and Xerox added 1.9%.
Financial companies also notched gains. Invesco climbed 2.3% and Goldman Sachs Group rose 1.1%. Smaller company handily outgained the rest of the market.
Investors turned their attention to corporate earnings, as Delta Air Lines kicked off the first-quarter earnings reporting season. The company’s results easily beat forecasts, sending its shares and those of other big airlines higher.
Levi Strauss also gained ground after swinging to a quarterly profit in its first period as a publicly traded company.
Analysts expect first-quarter earnings for the S&P 500 index to contract for the first time in nearly three years and are closely tracking forecasts for the remainder of the 2019.
As corporate earnings reports start to trickle in, investors were also keeping a wary eye on global economic developments.
Despite a downturn in stocks on Tuesday, the broader market has been steadily gaining in 2019. The S&P 500 is up 15.2% for the year.
STOCK MARKET UPDATE
KEEPING SCORE: The S&P 500 index rose 10 points, or 0.3%, to 2,888. The Dow Jones Industrial Average edged up 6 points to 26,157. The Nasdaq added 54 points, or 0.7%, to 7,964.
Small-company stocks, which investors tend to favor when they’re feeling bullish about the economy, rose more than the rest of the market. The Russell 2000 picked up 1.3%.
Major indexes in Europe finished mostly higher.
READING BETWEEN THE LINES: Investors pored over the latest Fed meeting minutes, looking for clues that might signal the central bank’s next move on interest rates.
The minutes showed that a majority of Fed officials last month believed that economic conditions would likely warrant keeping the Fed’s benchmark policy unchanged for the rest of this year. Several officials said their view could shift in either direction based on incoming data, according to minutes of the meeting.
Weaker growth and lower inflation expectations could prompt the Fed to cut rates, while faster growth and rising inflation expectations could prompt it to resume raising rates.
“This is a data-dependent Fed, and that’s very positive and very good,” said Tony Roth, chief investment officer at Wilmington Trust.
Meanwhile, the European Central Bank left its policy goals and interest rates unchanged Wednesday as it weighs looming risks to the region’s economy from trade disputes.
The Federal Reserve is set to release minutes from its latest policy meeting later Wednesday.
WHEELS UP: Delta Air Lines shares lifted off after it gave investors a better than-expected quarterly report and forecast. The stock jumped as much as 2% before giving up some of its early gains. It shares gained 1.9%.
The airline’s profit surged 30% as ticket sales and the renewal of a deal with American Express helped lift revenue. It is also projecting a strong second quarter, giving investors a profit forecast that is mostly above expectations.
Shares in other airlines also rose. American Airlines Group gained 2.5% and Southwest Airlines added 1.5%.
BLUE JEANS IN THE BLACK: Levi Strauss & Co. climbed 4.4% after the jeans and clothing maker told investors it swung to a profit in its first quarter since going public.
A 7% increase in revenue drove profit during the quarter, indicating that investments online and in its denim products are paying off. The company now expects to invest as much as $200 million to open 100 new stores over the next year as well as invest in other areas. It currently operates roughly 800 stores globally.
SLIPPERY QUARTER: WD-40, which makes the popular lubricant for home and industrial uses, fell 5% after its fiscal second-quarter revenue fell short of Wall Street forecasts.
MUTED INFLATION: Bond prices rose, sending yields lower, after the government reported that a key measure of consumer price inflation remained in check last month. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note, which is used to set interest rates on mortgages and many other kinds of loans, fell to 2.47% from 2.50%.
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