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Microsoft, Alphabet lift Nasdaq but cyclicals weigh on S&P 500

The Nasdaq rose on Wednesday boosted by gains in Microsoft and Google parent Alphabet on the heels of their quarterly results, but a drop in oil prices and a pullback in Treasury yields weighed on cyclical sectors and capped gains on the S&P 500.


Microsoft Corp gained 5.03% to hit a record high after forecasting a strong end to the calendar year, fueled in part by its booming cloud business. Google owner Alphabet Inc jumped 5.91% after reporting a record quarterly profit on a surge in ad sales.


The gains in the two stocks accounted for about 130 points to the upside in the tech-heavy Nasdaq while Microsoft was the biggest boost to the Dow Industrials, S&P 500 and Nasdaq.


A pullback in longer-term U.S. Treasury bond yields and a flattening of the yield curve also helped support growth names such as those in tech and communications services, which were the only advancing S&P sectors on the day, along with consumer discretionary.


The benchmark 10-year U.S. Treasury yield declined for a fourth straight day, dropping 8 basis points to put it on track for its biggest one-day decline since July 19.


“The growthy names will get a boost not just from some of the earnings stuff but because interest rates are lower,” said Megan Horneman, director of portfolio strategy at Verdence Capital Advisors in Hunt Valley, Maryland.


“Interest rates are temporarily lower because of the fact that there is some uncertainty from the tax perspective and what that might do. We do know the Fed is going to taper, that has pretty much been priced in but now you have a lot of talk about what the future of the Federal Reserve may look like.”


The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 97.39 points, or 0.27%, to 35,659.49, the S&P 500 gained 4.25 points, or 0.09%, to 4,579.04 and the Nasdaq Composite added 109.97 points, or 0.72%, to 15,345.69.


In contrast, the flattening curve served to weaken financials, while a drop in crude prices after data on U.S. stockpiles pulled energy names lower. JP Morgan shares lost 1.91% and Exxon Mobil declined 2.36%.


A solid start to earnings season has helped push the S&P 500 and the Dow to all-time highs this week, as investor concerns over the ability of companies to navigate supply-chain bottlenecks, labor shortages and rising price pressures have been allayed.


“While we are not out of the woods by any means, companies are adjusting quicker than we had anticipated,” said Horneman.


Profits for S&P 500 companies are expected to grow 37.6% year-on-year in the third quarter. Out of the 192 companies that have reported earnings, 82.8% have beaten analyst expectations, according to Refinitiv IBES data.

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