U.S. Stocks Brush Off Latest Loss, Return To Record Heights

Wednesday, February 19th 2020, 9:52 am
By: Associated Press

U.S. stocks shook off their latest virus-induced loss and returned to record heights Wednesday, with several familiar faces doing the heaviest lifting.

Apple rose 1.5% as technology stocks once again helped lead the market higher. The iPhone maker recouped most of its loss from the prior day, triggered by a warning that revenue would fall short of forecasts due to the viral outbreak centered in China.

Worries remain about how disruptive the virus will be for manufacturing, travel and other economic activity across the region, but markets around the world rallied as the number of new virus cases in China fell Wednesday. Expectations are high that China will limit the economic damage through stimulus and other measures. Healthy reports on the U.S. economy also helped buoy markets, including stronger data on home construction than economists expected.

Treasury yields rose after a report showed that inflation on the wholesale level was higher than expected in January, but not by enough to dash traders’ expectations that the Federal Reserve will keep interest rates low for a long time. Low rates have been a key reason for stocks’ powerful rally over the last year, even when corporate profits have been flat to weaker.

KEEPING SCORE: The S&P 500 was up 0.6%, as of 1:40 p.m. Eastern time. If it stays that high, it will surpass its record set last week.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 143 points, or 0.5%, to 29,375, and the Nasdaq composite was up 0.9%.

TECH TITANS: Tech stocks have been the market’s biggest stars for years because of their ability to deliver strong profit and revenue growth despite a slow-moving economy.

On Wednesday, they once again helped pace the market. Besides Apple’s gain, Nvidia jumped 5.6% and Advanced Micro Devices rose 3.8%. As a group, tech stocks in the S&P 500 climbed 1.1% for the second-largest gain among the 11 sectors that make up the index.

Tech stocks in the S&P 500 have surged nearly 47.7% over the last 12 months, nearly double the rise for any of the index’s other sectors.

RE-ENERGIZED: A longtime laggard was also high up the leaderboard. Energy stocks in the S&P 500 jumped 1.2%.

They climbed with the price of crude oil, which rose more than 2%. Concho Resources leaped 7% after reporting a stronger quarterly profit than analysts expected.

The sector has been struggling as worries about demand have weighed on the price of oil. Energy stocks have lost nearly 16% over the last 12 months, the only sector in the S&P 500 to be down over that time.

YIELDS: The yield on the 10-year Treasury rose to 1.56% from 1.55% late Tuesday, and the two-year yield climbed to 1.42% from 1.39%.

MARKETS ABROAD: European indexes rallied, and the French CAC 40 climbed 0.9%. Germany’s DAX returned 0.8%, and the FTSE 100 jumped 1%.

In Asia, Japan’s Nikkei 225 rose 0.9%, the Hang Seng in Hong Kong added 0.5% and South Korea’s Kospi inched up 0.1%. Stocks in Shanghai lost 0.3%.

COMMODITIES: Benchmark U.S. crude jumped $1.30, or 2.5%, to $53.59 per barrel. Brent crude, the international standard, rose $1.47 to $59.22 per barrel.

Gold rose $8.10, or 0.5%, to $1,611.80 per ounce. Silver gained 17 cents, or 0.9%, to $18.32 per ounce.

FRESHENING THE PILLOWS: Bed Bath & Beyond rose 8.3% after the home goods retailer rolled out initiatives to turn the struggling chain around. The company will spend $1 billion this year reinvesting in stores, upgrading technology, and on debt reduction and share buybacks. The moves come a month after the company withdrew its annual financial forecast because of weak results.

MISSING INGREDIENTS: Struggling meal kits company Blue Apron plunged 20.8% after saying it is considering a sale. The pioneer of the meal-kit craze has seen its value dwindle from nearly $2 billion to $58 million since it became a public company in 2017. It has faced increasingly tougher competition from online rivals and grocers, including Kroger and Walmart.

SOLID CONSTRUCTION: Several homebuilders gained ground following a surprisingly good government report on home construction. The report also showed that applications for building permits jumped 9.2% in January. Beazer Homes rose 5.4% and Hovnanian Enterprises rose 5%.

VIRUS UPDATE: The virus has now infected more than 75,000 people globally, though the overwhelming majority of them are in China. Scientific instrument maker Agilent, which gets about 19% of its revenue from there, is the latest company to warn that the virus’ economic impact will hurt profits.

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