Wall Street drifts toward record closing highs in risk-on session

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FILE PHOTO: A street sign for Wall Street is seen outside the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York City, New York, U.S., July 19, 2021. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly/File Photo

NEW YORK (Reuters) -Wall Street advanced on Wednesday, with chipmakers and financials setting the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq on course to once again cinch all-time closing highs as investors look to the upcoming Jackson Hole Symposium for clues regarding the Federal Reserve’s timeline for policy tightening.

With few negative catalysts to dampen the risk-on sentiment, all three major U.S. indexes crept modestly higher.

“We’re in a ‘Goldilocks’ scenario with stocks right now, and the Fed is likely to remain accommodative,” said Oliver Pursche, senior vice president at Wealthspire Advisors, in New York. “By the same token we’ve had strong corporate earnings with forward guidance being lifted.”

“And while in July consumer sentiment weakened, there’s confidence that the consumer is going to continue to push things forward,” Pursche added.

Rising U.S. Treasury yields boosted rate sensitive financials, and sectors that stand to gain most from economic revival – smallcaps, chips and transports – were outperforming the broader market.

Days after the Food and Drug Administration gave full approval to the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine, companies and institutions are moving toward either mandated inoculation, or penalization for those who forego the shot.

The Pentagon and Delta Air Lines are the latest to enact such measures, with Ford Motor Co and others potentially following suit.

For an interactive graphic on global vaccine deployment and new infection rates, click here here.

Analysts polled by Reuters see the stock market staying rangebound for the remainder of 2021, with the S&P 500 ending the year little changed as the pandemic recovery, along with corporate earnings growth, lose steam.

For his part, Wealthspire’s Pursche disagrees.

“I think that’s a pessimistic view,” he said. “The Fed is going to continue to be accommodative and the trend is higher. I would not be surprised to see a decent fourth quarter rally.”

Tame economic data, including flat new orders for core capital goods, reinforced the notion that Fed Chairman Jerome Powell is unlikely to hint at a shortened tightening timeline during the virtual Jackson Hole Symposium, due to get underway on Friday.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 87.09 points, or 0.25%, to 35,453.35, the S&P 500 gained 11.96 points, or 0.27%, to 4,498.19 and the Nasdaq Composite added 16.12 points, or 0.11%, to 15,035.92.

Financials were the clear winners among 11 major sectors in the S&P 500, gaining more than 1%. Healthcare stocks suffered the largest percentage decline.

Chipmakers Nvidia Corp and Applied Materials rose 2.3% and 1.6%, along with mega-cap growth stocks Alphabet Inc, Tesla Inc and Facebook Inc provided the biggest boost to the Nasdaq.

Nordstrom Inc tumbled 17.0% after the department store operator posted a 6% decline in quarterly revenue from pre-pandemic levels.

Dick’s Sporting Goods Inc announced a special dividend and raised its annual sales and profit forecast, sending its shares jumping 14.4%.

Advancing issues outnumbered declining ones on the NYSE by a 1.74-to-1 ratio; on Nasdaq, a 1.60-to-1 ratio favored advancers.

The S&P 500 posted 62 new 52-week highs and one new low; the Nasdaq Composite recorded 117 new highs and 24 new lows.

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