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Financial Markets                      02/29 15:36

   

   NEW YORK (AP) -- U.S. stocks climbed to more all-time highs Thursday as Wall 
Street closed its latest winning month.

   The S&P 500 rose 26.51 points, or 0.5%, to 5,096.27 to top its record set 
last week. The Nasdaq composite led the market with a gain of 144.18, or 0.9%, 
to 38,996.39 and surpassed its all-time that had stood since 2021. The Dow 
Jones Industrial Average finished just below its record set last week after 
rising 47.37 points, or 0.1%, to 38,996.39.

   In the bond market, yields eased after a closely followed inflation report 
showed prices across the country rose pretty much as expected last month. That 
calmed worries that had built on Wall Street that the inflation data could show 
a discomforting reacceleration. Earlier reports had shown prices rose more than 
expected in January at both the consumer and wholesale levels.

   "While inflation was hotter than it's been in a while, it may be more of a 
flash in the pan than the start of something worse," said Brian Jacobsen, chief 
economist at Annex Wealth Management.

   Thursday's report kept intact hopes that the Federal Reserve may begin 
cutting interest rates in June. Such a move would relax the pressure on the 
economy and boost investment prices, and the Fed has indicated several cuts may 
be coming this year.

   The Fed's main interest rate is sitting at its highest level since 2001 in 
hopes of grinding down inflation by dragging on the economy through more 
expensive mortgage and credit-card payments. Hopes for coming cuts to rates 
helped launch the U.S. stock market's big rally in late October, and the S&P 
500 just closed its fourth straight winning month.

   Relief on rates, though, would come only if the Fed sees additional 
convincing data that inflation is sustainably heading down toward its target of 
2%.

   Traders have recently been pushing back forecasts for when the Fed may begin 
cutting rates. A series of strong reports on the economy have pushed 
expectations out from March. On Thursday, another report showed fewer U.S. 
workers filed for unemployment benefits last week than economists expected. 
It's the latest signal of a remarkably resilient job market.

   In the meantime, the hope is that a solid economy will fuel growth in 
profits for U.S. companies, even if it means a delay to rate cuts.

   Salesforce.com became one of the latest companies to report better profit 
for the latest quarter than analysts expected on Wednesday evening. The 
customer-resource management software company also said it plans to begin 
paying a quarterly dividend to its investors, but it gave a forecast for 
revenue this upcoming year that was a bit below analysts' expectations. Its 
stock climbed 3% after flipping between gains and losses in the morning.

   Hormel Foods led the S&P 500 with a 14.6% leap after it reported stronger 
profit and revenue than expected. It cited broad-based growth across its 
brands, including Skippy peanut butter, Chi-Chi's salsa and Corn Nuts snacks.

   Nvidia climbed 1.9% to recover losses from a back-to-back drop, a rare blip 
in what's been a monster run amid Wall Street's frenzy around 
artificial-intelligence technology. Because it's one of the biggest stocks on 
Wall Street, Nvidia was one of the strongest forces lifting the S&P 500.

   C3.ai jumped 24.5% after the software company reported a smaller loss than 
analysts expected and stronger revenue.

   They helped offset a 5.4% drop for Bath & Body Works. The seller of 
fragrances, body lotion and three-wick candles reported better profit than 
expected, helped by a strong holiday season, but it said sales may weaken this 
upcoming year.

   Even though it nearly doubled analysts' fourth-quarter profit projections, 
the cloud-computing company Snowflake tumbled 18.1% after a surprise 
announcement that CEO Frank Slootman was retiring effective immediately. 
Slootman will be replaced by Sridhar Ramaswamy.

   Chemours tumbled 31.5% after it put its CEO and two other top executives on 
administrative leave while the audit committee of its board conducts a review. 
The company said it needs more time to complete its year-end reporting process, 
and it delayed the release of its quarterly results, which was earlier planned 
for Wednesday.

   In the bond market, the yield on the 10-year Treasury slipped to 4.25% from 
4.27% late Wednesday.

   The two-year yield, which more closely tracks expectations for the Fed, 
dipped to 4.63% from 4.65%. It had been near 4.70% shortly before the morning's 
release of the inflation data.

   In stock markets abroad, indexes were mixed.

   Tokyo's Nikkei 225 dipped 0.1% after data showed factory output falling in 
January at the fastest pace since May 2020, though retail sales were stronger 
than expected.

   Hong Kong's Hang Seng slipped 0.2%, while stocks in Shanghai jumped 1.9%. 
The smaller index in Shenzhen surged even more after regulators released new 
measures to support markets including closer oversight of financial derivatives.

   ___

   AP Business Writers Matt Ott and Elaine Kurtenbach contributed.

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