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Stocks end higher as Wall Street’s winning week rolls on

Buildings line Wall Street in New York.
Much of Wall Street’s focus was on Europe, where a years-long experiment with negative interest rates came to a close.
(Associated Press)

Stocks on Wall Street closed higher Thursday, building on their winning week, as investors sifted through a deluge of news about the economy, interest rates and corporate profits.

The Standard & Poor’s 500 index rose 1% after shaking off an early stumble, returning to its highest level in six weeks. The Dow Jones industrial average also recovered from a midafternoon slide to end 0.5% higher, and the Nasdaq composite gained 1.4% as Tesla and technology stocks led the market.

Much of Wall Street’s focus was on Europe, where a years-long experiment with negative interest rates came to a close. In the United States, reports suggested the economy is slowing more than expected, while a better-than-expected profit report from Tesla headlined a mixed set from the nation’s biggest companies. Stocks briefly lost ground after President Biden tested positive for the coronavirus.

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At the center of this year’s sell-off for financial markets has been the world’s punishingly high inflation and the moves made by central banks to squash it. On Thursday, the European Central Bank surprised markets when it raised interest rates more than expected, its first increase in 11 years.

“I was trading right when the ECB [news] came out and it actually caused long-term bonds to rally,” said Jay Hatfield, chief executive of Infrastructure Capital Advisors.

Investors also bid up stock prices. The S&P 500 rose 39.05 points to 3,998.95. The latest gains extended the benchmark index’s winning streak to a third day.

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The Dow climbed 162.06 points to 32,036.90, and the Nasdaq added 161.96 points to close at 12,059.61. The major indexes are all on pace for a weekly gain.

Smaller-company stocks also rose. The Russell 2000 gained 8.74 points, or 0.5%, to close at 1,836.69.

As with the U.S. Federal Reserve, which is set to raise rates next week for a fourth time this year, the hope is that higher rates will slow the economy enough to beat back high inflation. The risk is that higher rates push down on investment prices, and too-aggressive increases could cause a recession.

In the U.S., some areas of the economy have already begun to soften.

The number of workers who filed for unemployment benefits last week was the highest in eight months, though it remains historically low. A separate report released Thursday morning showed manufacturing in the mid-Atlantic region weakened by significantly more than economists expected.

The discouraging data helped pull Treasury yields lower and could steer the Federal Reserve toward less-aggressive increases on interest rates. That in turn could help support stocks.

The two-year Treasury yield, which tends to move with expectations for the Fed, slumped to 3.09% from 3.25% late Wednesday. Forecasts among traders for what the Federal Reserve will do at its meeting next week have tilted toward an increase of 0.75 percentage points and away from a colossal hike of a full percentage point.

The 10-year yield, which influences mortgage rates, fell to 2.90% from 3.03%.

The primary reason stocks have rallied this week on Wall Street has been strong profit reports from big U.S. companies. If they can deliver continued growth despite high inflation, that would prop up one of the two main levers that set stock prices. The other depends on where interest rates go.

Tesla climbed 9.8% in the first trading after the electric-vehicle maker reported results for the spring that were better than analysts expected. It was the biggest gainer in the S&P 500.

Steelmaker Nucor jumped 9.1% after its results topped forecasts. Philip Morris International, the tobacco company, rose 4.2% after reporting stronger profit than expected.

On the losing side were airlines after some disappointing reports.

United Airlines tumbled 10.2% after its profit and revenue fell short of expectations. It also scaled back its plans for growth later this year. American Airlines fell 7.4% after it reported weaker earnings than expected, though its revenue topped forecasts.

AT&T sank 7.6% even though it reported better profit and revenue than Wall Street forecast. It cut its forecast for the amount of cash it will generate this year.

Stocks of energy companies also fell as the price of U.S. crude oil settled 3.5% lower.

European stocks ended mixed, with several events keeping the continent in the market’s spotlight beyond the European Central Bank’s momentous moves.

A key pipeline carrying natural gas into the region reopened Thursday, though worries continue that Russia may restrict supplies to punish allies of Ukraine. In Italy, Premier Mario Draghi resigned after his ruling coalition fell apart. That adds more uncertainty as Europe contends with the war in Ukraine, high inflation and the potential for trouble in Europe’s bond markets.

In Asia, Tokyo’s Nikkei 225 rose 0.4% after the Bank of Japan announced no major policy changes after a two-day meeting, as was widely expected. It’s been a holdout in the global rush to raise interest rates.

— Associated Press writer Yuri Kageyama contributed to this report.


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