Stocks closed higher on Wall Street as investors applauded encouraging quarterly results from major retailers and more in Wednesday’s Stock Market Update.
Target soared 20% Wednesday after releasing earnings that blew past analysts’ expectations. Lowe’s also jumped 10.3% after its results also beat forecasts.
Technology companies accounted for a big share of the gains. Microsoft and Apple each rose 1.1%.
Traders had a muted reaction to the afternoon release of notes from the Federal Reserve’s policymaking meeting last month. The minutes showed officials were divided in their decision to cut interest rates for the first time in a decade, with some arguing for a bigger cut and others against cutting at all. The minutes did not indicate any consensus among Fed officials on whether future rate cuts would be needed.
Investors have been seeking insight into the Fed’s willingness to make further interest rate cuts to help shore up the economy. Traders are now looking ahead to Friday, when Fed Chairman Jerome Powell is scheduled to speak at the central bank’s annual conference.
The stock market has been volatile this month as investors try to parse conflicting signals on the U.S. economy and determine whether a recession is on the way. A key concern is that the U.S.-Chinese tariff war will weigh on global economic growth.
The Trump administration has imposed a 25% tariff on $250 billion in Chinese imports. A pending 10% tariff on another $300 billion in goods would hit everything from toys to clothing and shoes that China ships to the United States, however some 60% of the new tariffs wouldn’t go into effect until mid-December, and others were taken off the table altogether.
The potential impact those tariffs could have on U.S. consumers could hurt sales for Target and other big retailers. Home Depot on Tuesday cut its sales expectations for the year in part because of the potential tariff impact.
Even after the bouts of turbulent trading this month, the S&P 500 is still having a good year. The broad market index is up 16.7% for 2019. Similarly, the Nasdaq is still up 20.8% for the year.
STOCK MARKET UPDATE
KEEPING SCORE: The S&P 500 rose 23 points, or 0.8%, to 2,924. The Dow Jones Industrial Average added 240, or 0.9%, to 26,202. The Nasdaq climbed 71, or 0.9%, to 8,020.
Major indexes in Europe also finished broadly higher.
ANALYST’S TAKE: “We had a couple of great earnings reports this morning, especially Target, which is a good barometer of the consumer,” said Dan Heckman, national investment consultant at U.S. Bank Wealth Management. “The consumer still appears to be spending and doing well.”
While the encouraging earnings put investors in a buying mood, Heckman noted that August and September are historically some of the weakest months of the year for stocks, so investors should expect more market volatility, particularly if the U.S. and China don’t strike a trade deal.
ON TARGET: After mixed results from retailers on Tuesday, Target soared 20% after easily beating profit forecasts for its second quarter as it pushes faster delivery and invests heavily in new private label brands.
MUCH IMPROVED: Lowe’s jumped 10.3% after the home improvement retailer’s latest quarterly results blew past expectations, buoyed by strong demand for spring goods and sales to contractors. The company’s strong quarter came even as it wrestled with lower lumber prices and rough spring weather.
Lowe’s solid earnings came a day after rival Home Depot reported strong results of its own. Home Depot added 1.5%.
LOOKING SLICK: Urban Outfitters climbed 6.9% after the company reported improving trends throughout its latest quarter.
HOME SWEET HOME: Homebuilders were mostly higher following new data showing sales of previously occupied U.S. homes rose 2.5% last month. The increase is a sign that lower mortgage rates are helping to increase sales, which have been sluggish amid rising housing prices and a stubborn shortage of homes on the market.
Hovnanian Enterprises led the pack, vaulting 21%. LGI Homes rose 2.7%.
Toll Brothers was among the laggards, dropping 4.4% a day after the luxury homebuilder reported a decline in orders for new homes.
A DIMMER VIEW: Shares in Cree tumbled 15.8% after the maker of energy-efficient lighting gave investors a weak forecast as it deals with the fallout from the U.S.-China trade war.
FED WATCH: The notes from the Fed’s policymaking meeting last month aren’t the only source of potentially fresh insight on the central bank’s views this week.
Fed Chairman Jerome Powell is scheduled to deliver a speech Friday at the central bank’s annual conference in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, and traders will be listening for clues as to what Fed officials will cut rates again at its next meeting in September.
“Powell is in a difficult spot in that you have a meeting coming up in September and everybody is looking to him,” said Tom Martin, senior portfolio manager with Globalt Investments. “Even though we want some more information and a nod, one way or the other, toward September, I don’t think we’re going to get one.”
The Fed on July 31 cut its key policy rate for the first time in more than a decade, reducing it by a quarter-point to a range of 2% to 2.25%. It cited a number of “uncertainties” that were threatening the country’s decade-long expansion, from Trump’s trade battles to slowing global growth.
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