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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Wall St finishes topsy-turvy day higher, S&P snaps losing run

The main Wall Street benchmarks closed a topsy-turvy Thursday in positive territory, with the S&P 500 snapping a four-session losing streak, as investors grappled with how interest rate policy might affect the U.S. economy.

Stock markets have been volatile this year, pulling back in February after a strong January as investors try to figure out what the U.S. Federal Reserve will do with interest rates. Hawkish comments from policymakers have been interspersed with data pointing to a strong American economy.

On Thursday, the Labor Department said the number of Americans filing new claims for unemployment benefits unexpectedly fell last week, reflecting tight labor market conditions.

A separate report confirmed the economy grew solidly in the fourth quarter, though rising inventory levels were responsible for much of the increase.

U.S. gross domestic product increased 2.7% in the fourth quarter, according to the government’s second estimate. Economists were forecasting a 2.9% rise.

“If you’re a bull, you can pull out plenty of things that are supportive, and if you’re bear there are plenty of things to point to that are supportive,” said Jack Janasiewicz, lead portfolio strategist at Natixis Investment Managers Solutions.

“There are so many cross currents that are moving in very different directions, I think it’s very difficult to fall back on one or two things. That’s creating a lot of hand-wringing uncertainty, and we’re range-trading as a result of it.”

For part of the day, the S&P was trading below its 50-day moving average of 3,980 points, before rallying in the afternoon.

Influencing this intraday dip were large trades in short-dated derivatives that piled selling pressure on the market, according to Nomura strategist Charlie McElligott.

Helping provide confidence to buyers was positive earnings from Nvidia Corp, which surged after forecasting quarterly sales above estimates and reporting a surge in the use of its chips to power artificial intelligence services.

Other chipmakers also gained, including Broadcom Inc and Qualcomm Inc. The Philadelphia SE Semiconductor index climbed.

According to preliminary data, the S&P 500 gained 21.09 points, or 0.53%, to end at 4,012.14 points, while the Nasdaq Composite gained 83.26 points, or 0.72%, to 11,590.33. The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 113.99 points, or 0.34%, to 33,159.08.

Many of the 11 major S&P 500 sectors rose. Higher crude prices pushed energy to be one of the biggest gainers on the day, and also helped the index halt a losing run at seven. This tied its worst stretch since an eight-session skid in March 2017.

Among the fallers was communication services, which recorded its fifth straight decline, matching another five-loss streak in October. It was weighed by Netflix Inc, which slipped on reports that the streaming service was cutting subscription prices in 30 countries.

Among other stocks, eBay Inc slid after warning of dour demand in the first half of 2023 due to strained consumer spending in the United States and Europe.

Moderna Inc fell after the vaccine maker reaffirmed its annual sales forecast of $5 billion for its COVID-19 vaccines despite its fourth-quarter sales exceeding estimates.

However, Bumble Inc jumped. The owner of the eponymous dating app projected annual revenue growth above market estimates on optimism over rising paying users.

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