US stocks edge higher; S&P 500 is on track for record highs
Stocks edged higher on Wall Street in late-afternoon trading Friday, placing the market on track to finish with its second all-time high this week.
A late-afternoon flurry of buying helped nudge the benchmark S&P 500 and other indexes higher after spending much of the day hovering near their recent highs.
The latest gains came as investors weighed a report showing solid U.S. economic growth and a mixed bag of corporate earnings reports.
Small-company stocks rose much more than the rest of the market, which was on track to finish the week slightly higher.
Gains in financial, health care and other sectors offset losses in technology stocks. Energy companies also fell as the price of U.S. crude oil slumped for the third straight day.
U.S. companies are about a third of the way through their latest round of quarterly reports. So far they’ve avoided analysts’ most dire predictions for a severe contraction.
Ford Motor, Mattel and Amazon rose after reporting first quarter results that topped Wall Street’s forecasts. Intel slumped after issuing a weak forecast, while Exxon Mobil tumbled after the oil company’s first quarter profit fell short of analysts’ estimates.
While company earnings were mixed, investors drew encouragement from the Commerce Department’s latest economic snapshot, which shows the U.S. economy grew at a 3.2% annual pace in the first quarter. That marks a surge from the previous quarter and it blows away Wall Street forecasts.
The report helped push bond prices higher, a sign that investors are taking a more cautious approach. The yield on the 10-year Treasury fell to 2.50% from 2.53% late Thursday.
Earlier this week the benchmark S&P 500 index hit an all-time high, as investors grew more confident in economic growth and corporate earnings.
The broad index is up more than 16% for the year.
Wall Street has also been rewarding some technology companies since their highly anticipated stock market debuts. Pinterest and Zoom both went public earlier this month and are trading near their raised initial prices. Ride-hailing company Uber and messaging platform Slack are set to be the next technology companies to open up for public investment.
KEEPING SCORE: The S&P 500 was up 0.3% as of 3:54 p.m. Eastern Time. The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 33 points, or 0.1%, to 26,495. The Nasdaq composite recovered from an early slide, adding 0.2% and the Russell 2000 index of smaller company stocks climbed 1%.
Major European stock indexes ended mostly higher.
ANALYSTS’ COMMENTS: Companies have mostly met profit forecasts for the first quarter, taking some pressure off the market.
“It’s marginally better than expected, so the market has rallied a bit,” said Andrew Slimmon, managing director and senior portfolio manager at Morgan Stanley Investment Management.
Meanwhile, investor fears of a potential recession have subsided since the year started, helping the market steadily recover from its fourth-quarter meltdown.
“With no recession, the market was due for a bounce back,” he said.
Slimmon warned that investors seem to be complacent with a less volatile market, which he said could be setting it up for a pullback.
Gene Goldman, chief investment officer at Cetera Financial Group, said that “markets have gone a little ahead of themselves.” He pointed out that both bond and currency markets seem to be pointing to a slowdown in growth, while a surge in energy prices threatens to cut into consumers’ wallets.
KEEP ON TRUCKIN: Ford Motor rode its trucks and SUVs to a solid first-quarter profit. The company surprised Wall Street with better-than-anticipated earnings as sales of pickups and sport utility vehicles sparked an improved performance in North America.
Ford said a restructuring program is starting to improve operations. It is currently shifting away from sedans in the U.S., closing international factories and cutting thousands of white-collar jobs. The stock vaulted 11.1%.
TOY STORY: Mattel rose 2.4% after surprising investors with higher sales of its iconic Barbie and Hot Wheels toys. The company and its competitor Hasbro have been trying to find a new way to drive sales after the bankruptcy of Toys R Us. Both companies have now surprised the broader market with solid sales, despite the disappearance of the major retailer
DELIVER THIS: Amazon gained 1.1% a day after the e-commerce giant said its profit more than doubled in the first quarter.
CHIPPED FORECAST: Intel shares tumbled 10% after the chipmaker warned that weak demand in China will likely continue through the current quarter. It slashed its forecast for the quarter and expects a drop in revenue for the year.
The warning dragged down competitors, who also rely in large part on growth in China to fuel sales. Nvidia fell 5%, Micron Technology slid 1.7% and Western Digital dropped 4.4%.
NOT SO SLICK: Exxon Mobil slid 2.7% after the oil company’s first quarter profit fell by half, missing forecasts as it spent more on oil production and was hit by lower margins in its refinery business.
Exxon was part of a broad slide in energy sector stocks Friday, as the price of benchmark U.S. crude oil fell 2.9% to settle at $63.30 a barrel.
Oil prices increased during the first quarter following an agreement by OPEC and allies including Russia to limit production. More recently, prices have risen after the U.S. government announced it will end waivers from sanctions for countries that import oil from Iran, including China, India, Japan and South Korea.
On Friday, President Donald Trump tweeted that he spoke with Saudi Arabia and other nations about increasing oil production.