By Elaine Kurtenbach And Matt Ott, The Associated Press on February 8, 2024.
NEW YORK (AP) – U.S. stocks are holding near record levels as evidence keeps piling up to show the job market remains remarkably solid. The S&P 500 was little changed in early trading Thursday, a day after coming within a fraction of a point of the 5,000 level for the first time. The Dow was up 69 points, and the Nasdaq composite was little changed. The latest show of strength for the economy came from a report indicating fewer workers applied for unemployment benefits last week than expected. The Walt Disney Co. jumped after reporting stronger profit for the latest quarter than analysts expected.
THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. AP’s earlier story follows below.
Wall Street edged lower before the bell Thursday, but 5,000 remains within reach for the S&P 500.
Futures for the S&P 500 inched back 0.2% before the bell, while the Dow Jones Industrial Average is effectively unchanged.
The focus this week is on corporate earnings with few economic indicators on the schedule out of Washington, and turbulence in the regional banking sector continues to rattle investors.
New York Community Bancorp slid again early Thursday, falling 4.9%. About half its value has been wiped out since it surprised investors last week with a loss that was driven by holdings in commercial real estate.
The bank is also struggling with its acquisition of Signature Bank, one of the banks that collapsed in last year’s mini banking crisis.
The Walt Disney Co. jumped almost 8% in premarket after posting stronger-than-expected first-quarter earnings on Wednesday, boosted by cost cuts and growing revenue from its theme parks. Disney earned $1.91 billion, or $1.04 per share, in its fiscal first quarter, up 49% from the same period a year ago.
Online payment company PayPal fell nearly 9.7% before the bell, even after it beat sales and profit forecasts. A flat profit forecast for 2024 sent the California company’s shares tumbling.
In Asian trading, Hong Kong’s benchmark fell while Shanghai advanced after China replaced its top stock market regulator late Wednesday.
Beijing has been struggling to prop up what have been some of the world’s worst-performing markets this year. Late Wednesday, China’s top stock regulator was replaced by a former chairman of the Shanghai Stock Exchange as part of those efforts.
Wu Qing, also a former banker and ex-vice mayor of Shanghai, has been dubbed the “broker butcher,” analysts say, due to his record for cracking down on market abuses such as insider trading.
The announcement that Yi Huiman was being dismissed from his post as chairman of the China Securities Regulatory Commission came without any explanation. But the ruling Communist Party may have chosen him as a way of signaling its resolve to protect smaller investors who have taken a drubbing in the recent sell-offs.
Market observers have cited the lack of transparency surrounding how the markets are run as a factor undermining investor confidence.
On Thursday, the Shanghai Composite index gained 1.3% to 2,865.90 and the Shenzhen Components index in China’s smaller main market also added 1.3%. Markets in mainland China will be closed from Friday through next week for Lunar New Year holidays.
Hong Kong’s Hang Seng fell 1.3%, to 15,878.07 on heavy selling of technology companies, despite strong gains for property developers.
Market heavyweight and e-commerce giant Alibaba’s shares dropped 6.1% after the company announced a major share buyback and said it was giving up plans for share listings of two of its group companies.
Elsewhere in Asia, Tokyo’s Nikkei 225 rose 2.1% to 36,863.28 and the Kospi in Seoul was 0.4% higher, at 2,620.32.
Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 picked up 0.3% to 7,639.20.
Bangkok’s SET gave up 0.8% and the Sensex in India shed 1%.
Germany’s DAX gained 0.4% and the CAC 40 in Paris advanced 0.6%. Britain’s FTSE 100 was unchanged.
In other trading Thursday, U.S. benchmark crude oil gained 72 cents to $74.58 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange.
Brent crude, the international standard, added 80 cents to $80.01 per barrel.
The dollar rose to 149.32 Japanese yen from 148.18 yen. The euro slipped to $1.0754 from $1.0774.
On Wednesday, Wall Street rose to the edge of another record-breaking milestone as Ford Motor, Chipotle Mexican Grill and other big stocks climbed following their latest earnings reports.
The S&P 500 gained 0.8%, coming within a fraction of a point of the 5,000 level. The Dow added 0.4% and the Nasdaq composite gained 0.9%.