February 23rd, 2024

Stock market today: Wall Street climbs ahead of Big Tech profit reports and Fed meeting

By Stan Choe, The Associated Press on January 29, 2024.

NEW YORK (AP) – Stocks closed higher on Wall Street at the start of a heavy week of potentially market-moving news. The S&P 500 ended 0.8% higher Monday. The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 0.6% and the Nasdaq composite added 1.1%. Stocks built on their gains as Treasury yields fell in the afternoon. This week several Big Tech companies will report their latest results, including Apple, Alphabet, Amazon, Meta Platforms and Microsoft. The Federal Reserve will also announce its latest decision on interest rates on Wednesday, and a highly anticipated jobs report will come out on Friday.

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

NEW YORK (AP) – U.S. stocks are ticking upward Monday ahead of a week where Wall Street’s most influential stocks may show whether the huge expectations built up for them are justified.

The S&P 500 was 0.5% higher in late trading. The Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 109 points, or 0.3%, with less than an hour remaining in trading, and the Nasdaq composite was 0.8% higher.

Big Tech stocks are the main reason the S&P 500 has soared more than 35% to a record since two autumns ago. A small handful of seven has been responsible for the majority of the index’s returns over that time, propelled by a furor around artificial-intelligence technology and expectations for continued dominance.

Five members of that group, which have been nicknamed “the Magnificent Seven,” will report their latest quarterly profits this upcoming week: Apple, Alphabet, Amazon, Meta Platforms and Microsoft.

Because they’re so much more massive in size than almost every other stock, their movements pack much more weight on the S&P 500 and other indexes. They’ll need to meet analysts’ expectations for growth to justify their huge recent moves.

And that’s not all that’s coming this week.

On Wednesday, the Federal Reserve will make its latest decision on what to do with interest rates. Traders expect it to make no move, but the hope is that it may cut interest rates at its next meeting in March. That would mark the first downward move since the Fed began dramatically raising interest rates two years ago to get inflation under control.

A wave of encouraging data has Wall Street believing its dream scenario can come true: The Fed will successfully conquer high inflation and soon deliver the cuts to rates that investors crave, while the economy skirts through without falling into a recession that seemed inevitable last year.

On Friday, an economic report could bolster or weaken beliefs in that dream. The government will release the latest monthly update on the job market, and economists expect it to show continued growth in hiring, but at a cooler pace. That’s exactly what the Fed would want to see because too much growth could mean upward pressure on inflation.

“This week could be key,” said Chris Larkin, managing director, trading and investing at E-Trade from Morgan Stanley. “If the market is going to sustain its latest breakout, it may need to avoid earnings disappointments from this week’s Big Tech lineup, get encouraging news from the Fed on interest rates, and see jobs numbers that are solid, but not too hot.”

This profit reporting season is expected to be lackluster, with analysts forecasting a fourth drop in earnings per share for S&P 500 companies in the last five quarters. But it would be even worse without the Magnificent Seven.

Facebook’s parent company, Meta Platforms, is expected to be the single biggest contributor to growth for the overall S&P 500, according to FactSet. Nvidia is close behind, followed by Microsoft, Apple, Alphabet and Amazon.

Companies so far this reporting season have not been getting as big a boost to their stock price as usual after topping analysts’ forecasts.

Franklin Resources, an investment manager, fell 2.4% even though it reported stronger profit and revenue for the latest quarter than analysts expected.

SoFi Technologies did better, and its stock jumped 19% after the financial services company reported stronger results for the last three months of 2023 than analysts expected. Its forecast for profit this upcoming year also topped analysts’ estimates.

Archer Daniels Midland jumped 5.6% for the biggest gain in the S&P 500 to recover some of its sharp loss from last week, after it put its chief financial officer on leave and said it’s investigating some of its accounting practices. In a message to employees on Friday, ADM CEO Juan Luciano said that “these sales do not materially affect our overall results.”

On the losing side of Wall Street, iRobot fell 9.6% after agreeing to call off its purchase by Amazon following scrutiny from antitrust regulators.

Monday kicked off with a Hong Kong court’s decision to order the liquidation of China Evergrande, the world’s most indebted property developer. Chinese markets were mixed following the ruling, with stocks rising in Hong Kong and falling in Shanghai.

Chinese authorities also made moves to make it more difficult for some investors to “short” Chinese stocks, or bet that their prices will fall. China’s stock markets have been among the world’s worst so far this year amid worries about not only its trouble property industry but also its weak economic recovery.

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AP Writers Matt Ott and Zimo Zhong contributed.

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