(Reuters) – Wall Street saw choppy trade on Wednesday, with the S&P 500 reaching a record high and the Nasdaq edging lower as investors balanced worries about inflation with reassuring comments from Fed Chair Jerome Powell.
Eight of the 11 major S&P 500 sector indexes were higher in afternoon trade, led by a 0.9% rise in utilities.
U.S. monetary policy will offer “powerful support” to the economy “until the recovery is complete,” Powell told a congressional hearing in remarks that portrayed a recent jump in inflation as temporary and focused on the need for continued job growth.
Powell’s comments followed data this week showing U.S. producer prices increased more than expected in June and U.S. consumer prices rose by the most in 13 years.
Investors in recent weeks have focused on inflation, with many fearing a possible hawkish shift by the Federal Reserve, as well as a spike in coronavirus infections that could knock U.S. equities off record highs.
(Graphic: SPX & CPI – )
With banks kicking off second-quarter earnings season this week, analysts expect 66% growth in earnings per share for S&P 500 companies, according to IBES estimate data from Refinitiv.
With the S&P 500 up 16%, many investors worry that the stock market may run out of steam, and they are looking to earnings to potentially provide more fuel.
“Everyone knows earnings are going to be very strong. The question is how the market reacts to those earnings, and what are the outlooks given by management. That is more critical than anything,” said Tim Ghriskey, chief investment strategist at Inverness Counsel in New York.
Apple Inc rose about 2% after Bloomberg reported that the company is working on a service to let shoppers pay for purchases in installments.
Microsoft and Amazon.com Inc gained 0.5% and 0.8%, respectively. Along with Apple, they supported the S&P 500 more than any other stocks.
Bank of America Corp dropped 3.3% after the lender posted its quarterly results and detailed its sensitivity to low interest rates
Wells Fargo rose 3.5% after it swung to a profit in the second quarter, smashing Wall Street expectations. Citigroup fell 1% after comfortably beat market estimates for second-quarter profits.
Those reports followed strong results on Tuesday from JPMorgan Chase & Co and Goldman Sachs Group Inc.
American Airlines jumped 3% after it forecast positive cash flow.
In afternoon trade, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 0.12% at 34,932.17 points, while the S&P 500 gained 0.21% to 4,378.18.
The Nasdaq Composite added 0.04% to 14,682.94.
Declining issues outnumbered advancing ones on the NYSE by a 1.16-to-1 ratio; on Nasdaq, a 1.76-to-1 ratio favored decliners.
The S&P 500 posted 36 new 52-week highs and one new low; the Nasdaq Composite recorded 46 new highs and 106 new lows.
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