S&P 500 index ticks higher, breaking a 3-day losing streak

The words "Wall Street" etched in stone.
Investors continued to bid up shares in smaller-company stocks, driving the Russell 2000 small-cap index to its second straight all-time high.
(Richard Drew, AP)

Stocks closed higher on Wall Street on Wednesday, nudging the Standard & Poor’s 500 to its first gain in four days, as investors weighed a mixed set of reports on the economy.

The S&P 500 inched up 0.1% after shedding most of its gains from earlier in the day. The benchmark index remains on track for a weekly loss. Gains in financial, communication services, energy and other sectors were kept in check by declines elsewhere, including technology companies, which helped pull the Nasdaq slightly lower.

Investors continued to bid up shares in smaller-company stocks, driving the Russell 2000 small-cap index to its second straight all-time high.


An hour before trading began on Wall Street, the government released an avalanche of data on the economy that showed some optimistic signs and several disappointing ones. But the market seemed to largely shrug off the reports.

The S&P 500 rose 2.75 points to 3,690.01. The benchmark index set a record high on Thursday and is up 14.2% so far this year. The Dow Jones industrial average added 114.32 points, or 0.4%, to close at 30,129.83. The Nasdaq composite fell 36.80 points, or 0.3%, to 12,771.11. The tech-heavy index has notched new highs 54 times this year as Big Tech companies have led the market higher.

The Russell 2000 index climbed above the 2,000-point mark for the first time. It rose 17.22 points, or 0.9%, to 2,007.10. The index has grown 10.3% this month, roughly half of its gain so far this year.

California’s economic recovery slowed in November as lots of workers dropped out of the labor force. Unemployment, which counts those still seeking work, fell to 8.2%.

Dec. 18, 2020

Overnight, Wall Street had seemed to be heading for a rockier day of trading. U.S. stock futures initially dropped after President Trump said he might not sign the $900-billion rescue for the economy that Congress just approved. But they eventually drifted upward as investors looked past the unexpected pushback.

A mixed batch of economic data didn’t keep the market from grinding higher Wednesday. The Labor Department said fewer U.S. workers filed for unemployment benefits last week. The number is still incredibly high compared with before the pandemic, but it was better than economists were expecting. It also meant at least a temporary halt to the increase in unemployment claims the economy had been suffering.

Another report said that orders for long-lasting goods strengthened by more than expected last month, a good sign for the nation’s manufacturers.


Other data reports were more grim, though. Consumers pulled back on their spending by more last month than economists expected. It was the first drop since April, and it’s a discouraging signal for an economy that’s driven mostly by consumer spending. A big reason was the sharp drop in incomes that Americans took in November, worse than economists had forecast.

Wall Street’s gains on Wednesday were modest but widespread. Stocks of companies that would benefit the most from a healthier economy were doing the heaviest lifting. Energy stocks rose 2.2%, the biggest gain among the 11 sectors that make up the S&P 500. Financial stocks were close behind, adding 1.6%.

The yield on the 10-year Treasury rose to 0.95% from 0.90% late Tuesday.