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Stocks end higher, bringing S&P 500 to the cusp of a record

An American flag is to the left of a Wall Street sign.
The Standard & Poor’s 500 index saw its sixth straight gain, putting it less than a point from the all-time high it set Sept. 2.
(Associated Press)

Solid earnings from healthcare companies helped send stocks higher Wednesday on Wall Street and pushed the benchmark Standard & Poor’s 500 index to the brink of another record high.

The market has been gaining ground as investors shift their focus to the latest round of corporate earnings. Stocks have been choppy for weeks as rising inflation and lackluster economic data raised concerns about the path ahead for the economic recovery.

The S&P 500 rose 16.56 points, or 0.4%, to 4,536.19. It’s the sixth straight gain for the benchmark index and puts it less than a point from the all-time high it set Sept. 2.

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The Dow Jones industrial average rose 152.03 points, or 0.4%, to 35,609.34. The Nasdaq composite fell 7.41 points, or less than 0.1%, to 15,121.68.

“The reason we’re seeing this rally over the last week is that company earnings are looking really good,” said Sylvia Jablonski, chief investment officer at Defiance ETFs. “Most companies are managing inflationary pressures and pricing issues and that’s helping to alleviate concerns about overvaluation and inflation.”

Wall Street cheered solid earnings from a variety of healthcare companies. Abbott Laboratories, which makes infant formula, medical devices and drugs, rose 3.3% after handily beating analysts’ third-quarter profit forecasts. Health insurer Anthem rose 7.7% after also reporting strong financial results. Technology stocks lagged behind the broader market.

Bond yields rose. The yield on the 10-year Treasury rose to 1.65% from 1.63% late Tuesday.

Netflix fell 2.2% after forecasting earnings for its current quarter that were below analysts’ estimates.

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PayPal fell 4.9% after reports that it is considering buying digital pin board and shopping tool Pinterest, which jumped 12.8%.

The price of Bitcoin rose above $66,000 for the first time. The gains came a day after the first exchange-traded fund linked to Bitcoin futures attracted huge interest from investors looking to get into the surging field of cryptocurrencies.

Investors are busy reviewing the latest report cards from companies as they try to get a clearer understanding of how inflation and the lingering threat from COVID-19 will affect the economy.

A key concern remains supply chain disruptions and rising materials costs cutting into profits for many companies. Higher costs for companies could mean higher prices for consumers, which could threaten spending that is supporting the recovery.

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Oilfield services company Baker Hughes fell 5.7% after reporting weak third-quarter financial results, partly because of supply chain problems and higher costs. Brinker International, which operates Chili’s Grill & Bar, fell 9.7% after its fiscal first-quarter profit fell far short of analysts’ forecasts as it faces higher commodity and labor costs.

Investors seem to be taking in stride the effect of inflation on companies, said Greg Bassuk, chief executive at AXS Investments.

“Without big surprises on the downside, or something really outsized, the bulls are overtaking the bears,” he said.

Rising inflation has also put a sharper focus on the Federal Reserve and its plans to start trimming bond purchases that have helped keep interest rates low. The central bank maintained through most of the year that inflation probably would be temporary and tied to the economic recovery, but it has grown more concerned about higher inflation persisting.

Railroad operator CSX gained ground in after-hours trading after reporting solid financial results, while Tesla slipped after reporting its results.

There are still several large companies on deck to release their earnings this week. American Airlines, Southwest Airlines and Union Pacific will report their results Thursday.

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