February 25th, 2024

Stock market today: Wall Street rises after data on the economy stomps expectations

By Yuri Kageyama And Matt Ott, The Associated Press on January 25, 2024.

NEW YORK (AP) – U.S. stocks are rising following signals that the economy is growing much more powerfully than economists expected. The S&P 500 was 0.4% higher early Thursday. The Dow rose 89 points, and the Nasdaq composite was 0.4% higher. IBM helped lead the market after it reported a stronger profit for the latest quarter than analysts expected. That helped offset a tumble for Tesla, which forecast slower growth this year. The market’s main focus was on a report indicating the U.S. economy steamed ahead in the last three months of 2023 at a far faster rate than economists were expecting.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. AP’s earlier story follows below.

Wall Street was slow to get moving early Thursday as markets absorbed more corporate earnings reports while waiting for the government’s first estimate of how the U.S. economy fared in the final quarter of 2023.

Futures for the S&P 500 and the Dow Jones Industrial Average were little changed before the bell Thursday.

Tesla tumbled more than 8% in off-hours trading after the electric car maker warned of “notably lower” sales growth this year.

Shares of health insurer Humana skidded more than 13% in premarket after it badly missed Wall Street profit targets, posting an 11 cents-per-share loss in the fourth quarter. More troubling than the loss, Humana said that it expects adjusted per-share earnings of $16 this year, just over half of the $29.14 that Wall Street has been projecting, according to a survey of industry analysts by FactSet.

The U.S. on Thursday is expected to report that the national economy grew at an annual rate of around 2% in October-December, slowing from a vigorous 4.9% annual growth rate in the previous quarter. Also Thursday, the Labor Department issues its weekly layoffs report, which despite some recent layoffs in the technology sector, is expected to show a still-strong labor market.

On Friday, the government will give the latest monthly update on the measure of inflation that the Federal Reserve prefers to use in guiding its monetary policy.

Virtually no one expects the Fed to cut rates at its meeting next week, but traders are still betting on a nearly 42% probability that it will move in March, according to data from CME Group.

Stocks have broadly rocketed to records recently on hopes that cooling inflation will convince the Federal Reserve to cut interest rates several times this year. Rate cuts make riskier investments like stocks more attractive while stimulating business activity and thus prospects for share prices to go higher.

Elsewhere, in Europe at midday France’s CAC 40 lost 0.5% and Germany’s DAX slipped 0.4%. Britain’s FTSE 100 edged 0.2% lower.

The European Central Bank was expected to keep interest rates unchanged Thursday and its meeting could see ECB boss Christine Lagarde send a message to financial markets to cool it with expectations for rapid rate cuts.

The ECB leader is faced with financial markets that are anticipating cuts as early as April, and stock prices that have risen and fallen depending on hopes for the boost from lower rates.

In Asian trading, the Hang Seng in Hong Kong jumped 2.0% to 16,211.96, while the Shanghai Composite index was up 3.0%, at 2,906.11.

Late Wednesday, the Chinese central bank announced a set of rules to govern lending to property developers. Earlier, it said it would cut bank reserve requirements to put about 1 trillion yuan ($141 billion) into the economy.

The Chinese economy has slowed, with growth forecast below 5% this year, its lowest level since 1990 excluding the years of the COVID-19 pandemic. A debt crisis in the real estate industry has compounded other longer-term problems.

Shares in Chinese property developers jumped Thursday, with China Evergrande up 6.4% and Country Garden gaining 5.9%.

Tokyo’s Nikkei 225 was little changed, finishing about 10 points higher at 36,236.47.

Speculation has been growing about the Bank of Japan ending its negative rate policy later this year, and investors are bracing for what that might mean for the nation’s inflation, as well as its currency.

South Korea’s Kospi edged up less than 1 point to 2,470.34 after the nation’s central bank reported the economy grew at a better-than-expected quarterly rate of 0.6% in the last quarter of 2023.

Sydney’s S&P/ASX 200 advanced 0.5% to 7,555.40.

In energy trading, benchmark U.S. crude added 85 cents to $75.94 a barrel. Brent crude, the international standard, rose 80 cents to $80.43 a barrel.

In currency trading, the U.S. dollar edged up to 147.67 Japanese yen from 147.51 yen. The euro cost $1.0890, up modestly from $1.0884.

On Wednesday, the S&P 500 added 0.1% to 4,868.55, setting a record for a fourth straight day. Gains for tech stocks pushed the Nasdaq composite up 0.4% and the Dow industrials lost 0.3%.

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