SP 500 climbs to near record high as earnings season shifts to high gear
US stocks climbed back to near record highs on Friday after the largest US bank, JPMorgan Chase & Co, soothed worries that the first-quarter earnings season would pour cold water on Wall Street’s big rally back from last year’s slump.
The S&P 500 has come within a percent of September’s record closing high, regaining ground lost after a punishing sell-off in the closing months of the year which brought the benchmark index within a rounding error of bear market territory.
Since then, the three major indexes notched their best quarterly gains in nearly a decade in the first quarter, but have been in a holding pattern in April ahead of first-quarter earnings season.
JPMorgan, effectively kicking off the quarterly earnings reporting season that will dominate Wall Street’s agenda for the coming weeks, breezed past analyst estimates, easing fears that slowing economic growth could weigh on its results. Its stock rose 4.5% and led a broad rally in bank stocks.
“I think people were heading into this earnings season fearing the beginning of an earnings recession. The JPMorgan news has given them a little bit of hope,” said Robert Pavlik, chief investment strategist, senior portfolio manager at SlateStone Wealth LLC in New York. “I would liken it to someone drifting on a raft and seeing land.”
Analyst now expect S&P 500 companies to show a 2.3% year-on-year decline in earnings, slightly improved from their most recent reading of a 2.5% drop, per Refinitiv data. But first-quarter profit is still seen logging its first annual contraction since 2016.
However, of the 29 companies in the S&P 500 that have reported thus far, 79.3% have come in above analyst expectations.
The Nasdaq and the Dow were both about 1.6% below their previous record highs.
For the week, both the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq were on course to show their third consecutive gains, while the Dow looked set to post a nominal weekly loss.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 251.24 points, or 0.96%, to 26,394.29, the S&P 500 gained 17.82 points, or 0.62%, to 2,906.14 and the Nasdaq Composite added 33.64 points, or 0.42%, to 7,981.00.
Of the 11 major sectors in the S&P 500, all but healthcare were trading in the black.
Financials were the largest percentage gainer, rising 1.9% on the back of JPMorgan Chase earnings.
Healthcare stocks extended their slide, with UnitedHealth Group, Anthem Inc and Humana Inc down between 2% and 6.5%. The S&P 500 Healthcare index slipped 0.8%.
In the largest energy deal since 2016, Chevron Corp said it would buy Anadarko Petroleum Corp for $ 33 billion in cash and stock.
Chevron’s stock dipped by 4.7% following the announcement, while Anadarko shot up 32.7%.
Walt Disney Co jumped 10.8% after the media company priced its upcoming streaming service.
Streaming rival Netflix Inc was down 4.4%.
Boeing Co was up 2.3% as the plane maker bounced back from its recent sell-off due to the grounding of its 737 MAX jets.
Advancing issues outnumbered declining ones on the NYSE by a 1.86-to-1 ratio; on Nasdaq, a 1.33-to-1 ratio favoured advancers.
The S&P 500 posted 53 new 52-week highs and 2 new lows; the Nasdaq Composite recorded 85 new highs and 32 new lows.