Broad gains for stocks push S&P 500, Nasdaq to record highs

Stocks closed broadly higher on Wall Street Thursday, marking more record highs for the S&P; 500 and the Nasdaq. The Dow Jones Industrial Average also rose but landed just shy of the record high it set on Tuesday. Small-company stocks rose more than the rest of the market, a sign that investors are feeling more optimistic about the economy. Ford jumped 8.7% after reporting earnings that easily beat analysts’ forecasts and raising its outlook for the year. Heavy equipment maker Caterpillar rose 4.1% after turning in strong results. The yield on the 10-year Treasury rose to 1.57%.

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

Stocks rose broadly in afternoon trading on Wall Street Thursday and put major indexes on a path to push past record highs.

The S&P; 500 rose 0.8% as of 3:29 p.m. Eastern. Nearly 80% of stocks in the benchmark index made gains and it is hovering above the record close it set on Tuesday. The index is also on pace for its fourth straight weekly gain.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 139 points, or 0.4%, to 35,630. The tech-heavy Nasdaq rose 1.2% and was within striking distance of a new high.

Smaller stocks outpaced the broader market in a sign that investors are more confident about economic growth. The Russell 2000 rose 1.7%.

Technology stocks led the gains. KLA, which makes equipment for manufacturing semiconductors, rose 4.2% after beating Wall Street’s fiscal first-quarter profit forecasts. Apple, which reports its financial results later Thursday, rose 2.3%.

Bond yields edged higher. The yield on the 10-year Treasury rose to 1.56% from 1.53%. Banks, which rely on higher bond yields to charge more lucrative interest on loans, made solid gains. Bank of America rose 1.2%.

Investors are busy reviewing another big round of company earnings. Ford jumped 8.3% after reporting earnings that easily beat analysts’ forecasts and raising its full-year outlook. Heavy equipment maker Caterpillar also rose 3.4% after turning in strong results.

Aside from Apple, Amazon and Starbucks will report their latest financial results later Thursday.

The broader market has been gaining ground as the latest batch of corporate report cards show that companies fared well in the most recent quarter, despite a surge in COVID-19 cases and inflation worries weighing on the economic recovery.

“Right now, the market is saying I think six months from now the economy will be good, but not great,” said George Ball, chairman of financial services firm Sanders Morris Harris.

Outside of earnings, investors got a mixed bag of economic updates.

Hampered by rising COVID-19 cases and persistent supply shortages, the U.S. economy slowed sharply to a 2% annual growth rate in the July-September period, according to the Commerce Department. That marks the weakest quarterly expansion since the recovery from the pandemic recession began last year.

The Labor Department released a more upbeat report on the nation’s unemployment situation. The number of Americans applying for unemployment benefits fell to a pandemic low last week, another sign that the job market and economy continue to recover from last year’s coronavirus recession.

“There’s a cocktail of economic news coming out that is strong and positive, but in some cases lackluster,” Ball said. “That combination, in total, is probably good for the staying power of the economy.”

Both the pace of economic growth and the state of the jobs market are on investors’ minds as they look ahead to the Federal Reserve’s meeting next week to see how it moves forward with plans to trim bond purchases and its position on interest rates. Slower economic growth and rising inflation have raised more concerns on Wall Street about the impact of the central bank easing support for the economy and markets.

Rising energy prices have also raised concerns about the cost for consumers as they pay more to fill gas tanks and heat homes. U.S. crude oil prices inched up 0.2% Thursday and have jumped more than 70% so far this year.

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