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Wall Street rallies late to end week of wobbly trading

UPDATED: Fri., Feb. 12, 2021

A man walks past screens showing Japan's Nikkei 225 index on Friday in Tokyo. Stocks remained mixed in early trading on Friday, following the highs the market set the day before.   (Associated Press)
A man walks past screens showing Japan's Nikkei 225 index on Friday in Tokyo. Stocks remained mixed in early trading on Friday, following the highs the market set the day before.  (Associated Press)
By Ken Sweet Associated Press

Technology companies led a late-afternoon rally on Wall Street Friday that capped a week of wobbly trading with the major stock indexes hitting all-time highs.

The S&P 500 rose 0.5% after spending most of the day wavering between small gains and losses. The gain nudged the benchmark index to a record high for the second day in a row. The tech-heavy Nasdaq composite and the Dow Jones Industrial Average also set highs.

More companies reported solid earnings, including manufacturer Mohawk Industries and genetic testing company Illumina. Bond yields rose, giving banks a boost. Bumble shares continued to climb after the company made a big splash in its stock market debut the day before.

Optimism that Washington will come through on trillions of dollars of more aid for the economy and encouraging company earnings reports have helped stocks grind higher this month, along with hopes that the coronavirus vaccine rollout will set the stage for stronger economic growth in the second half of this year.

“The one thing that continues to be supportive for the market is just the fact that the risk-reward in the U.S. equity market still seems to be the best game in town,” said J.J. Kinahan, chief strategist with TD Ameritrade.

The S&P 500 rose 18.45 points to 3,934.83, while the Dow gained 27.70 points, or 0.1% to 31,458.40. The Nasdaq added 69.70 points, or 0.5%, to 14,095.47.

Traders also bid up shares in smaller companies. The Russell 2000 index rose 4.04 points, or 0.2%, to 2,289.36.

Despite a week of mostly minor gains and losses for the broader market, the S&P 500 notched its second straight weekly gain.

Investors are hoping for a new round of U.S. government aid as the economic recovery falters. The latest U.S. government report on jobless claims reaffirmed that employment remains a weak spot in the economy, even as vaccine distribution ramps up in the hopes of eventually ending the pandemic. The University of Michigan survey of consumer sentiment came in well below expectations as well, a sign that consumers are wary to spend in the face of economic uncertainty.

Investors do not expect the market to move substantially higher in the near term until there’s more clarity on the future of government stimulus and the direction of the U.S. economy. Democrats have decided to use a legislative process that does not require Republican support to pass the $1.9 trillion package.

“We’re sort of awaiting catalysts,” said Jeffrey Kleintop, chief global investment strategist at Charles Schwab. “The market is still of the opinion that there will be a vaccine-led, broad economic recovery in the second half of this year.”

A majority of companies have now reported their latest round of earnings and the results have been surprisingly good. Roughly 75% of companies in the S&P 500 have released results, showing overall growth of 2.8%, according to FactSet. That’s a sharp reversal from the 13% contraction analysts had forecast in late September.

Mohawk Industries shares climbed 6% after the company posted stronger-than-expected quarterly earnings. Genetic analytics company Illumina jumped 11.9% for the biggest gains in the S&P 500 following its encouraging earnings report.

Bumble shares rose a further 7.3%, extending big first-day gains Thursday on the company’s initial public offering.

Banks made some of the strongest gains as bond yields rose, which allow them to charge more lucrative interest on loans. The yield on the 10-year Treasury rose to 1.20% from 1.16% late Thursday. Wells Fargo gained 2.5%.

Most Asian markets were closed to mark the Lunar New Year and European markets closed higher.

U.S. stock and bond markets are closed Monday for Washington’s Birthday.

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