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A late buying drive pushes stocks higher on Wall Street

A street sign for a Wall Street subway station.
Nearly all of Tuesday’s gains came in the last hour after the market spent most of the day wavering between gains and losses.
(Associated Press)
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A late burst of buying sent stocks higher Tuesday on Wall Street, adding to the market’s recent gains after its January slump.

The Standard & Poor’s 500 gained 0.7%, the Dow Jones industrial average rose 0.8%, and the Nasdaq composite added 0.7%. Nearly all the gains came in the last hour after the market spent most of the day wavering between gains and losses.

Energy companies led the gainers in the S&P 500. Banks, communication stocks and industrial companies also helped outweigh weakness in other areas of the market.

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The stock market is coming off its worst month since early in the COVID-19 pandemic nearly two years ago. Investors have been jittery as they try to determine how upcoming interest rate hikes by the Federal Reserve, intended to squelch inflation, will affect the economy and corporate profits.

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While trading remains choppy, the benchmark S&P 500 index is on a three-day winning streak. Investors have mostly priced in a tighter Fed policy, and the central bank will likely be reasonable in its pace moving forward, said Jay Hatfield, chief executive of Infrastructure Capital Advisors.

“The macro has been priced in, and now we’re back to the reality of earnings, which should be constructive,” he said.

The S&P 500 rose 30.99 points to 4,546.54. The index recovered from a 0.7% drop in the early going. It’s now 5.2% below the all-time high it set on Jan. 3.

The Dow advanced 273.38 points to 35,405.24, and the Nasdaq rose 106.12 points to 14,346.

Smaller-company stocks also outperformed the broader market. The Russell 2000 index rose 22.29 points, or 1.1%, to 2,050.74.

Energy stocks made solid gains, led by a 6.4% rise from Exxon Mobil after the company reported a surprisingly good profit in its fourth quarter as demand for oil continued to improve.

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Banks also advanced as bond yields rose. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note, which is used to set rates on home mortgages and many other kinds of loans, rose to 1.80% from 1.77% late Monday. Bank of America rose 1.7%, and Wells Fargo & Co. climbed 3.4%.

Technology stocks bounced back after being down much of the day. The sector has been particularly sensitive to concerns about rising interest rates this year. Higher interest rates tend to make expensive growth stocks, such as big tech companies, less attractive for investors. Hewlett Packard Enterprise rose 2.9%.

Utilities and companies that make home goods and personal products were among the decliners. NRG Energy fell 3%, and J.M. Smucker dropped 1.5%.

UPS surged 14.1% for the biggest gain in the S&P 500 after the package delivery service reported far better results than analysts expected. Rival FedEx rose 2.5%.

Investors are reviewing the latest round of earnings, in part to see how inflation, the pandemic and other factors are affecting businesses and their operations.

The pandemic is still a lingering threat, and each new variant of the coronavirus could bring a surge of cases that threatens businesses and consumer activity.

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The economic recovery is being threatened by a surge in inflation that has raised costs for businesses and consumers. The big fear is that higher prices being passed off to consumers will eventually curtail spending and crimp economic growth.

The Federal Reserve is shifting monetary policy and plans on raising interest rates to fight rising inflation, which will affect stock prices. Ultra-low rates and other stimulus helped markets recover from the initial shock of the pandemic and then supported stunning gains. Investors expect the Fed to start raising interest rates in March, but there is much uncertainty about how sharply and how quickly the Fed will move throughout the year.

Several big companies are on deck for earnings reports this week. Facebook’s parent, Meta Platforms, will post results Wednesday, and Amazon and Ford will report their results Thursday.

Investors are also looking forward to the Labor Department’s employment report for January, which will be released on Friday.

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