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Stocks climb for fifth consecutive day, led by technology shares

Wall Street sign
The Standard & Poor’s 500, Dow Jones industrial average and Russell 2000 indexes hit record highs Monday.
(Seth Wenig / Associated Press)

Stocks shook off an early stumble and closed broadly higher Monday, nudging some of the major U.S. indexes to more all-time highs as the market added to its recent string of gains.

The Standard & Poor’s 500 index ended the day up 0.7%, extending its winning streak to a fifth day. Technology companies, airlines, cruise operators and other companies that rely on consumer spending helped lift the market. Bank and energy stocks were the only laggards.

Wall Street continues to eye the bond market, where yields pulled back a bit from Friday’s sharp increase. Investors are also focused on the recovery of the U.S. and global economies from the COVID-19 pandemic. The $1.9-trillion aid package for the U.S. economy has lifted investors’ confidence in a strong recovery in the second half of this year, but it has also raised concerns about a potential jump in inflation.

President Biden’s pledge to expand vaccine eligibility to all Americans by May 1 should also translate into faster economic growth.

Rising interest rates continue to be a key concern for investors after the sudden jump in bond yields over the last month. Rates are not yet at a concerning level, and both the markets and economy can easily digest them, said Yung-Yu Ma, chief investment strategist at BMO Wealth Management.

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“The question ultimately becomes how well markets can digest and stay the course on the idea that these increases are temporary,” he said. “As well as coming to terms with the idea that temporary might be three or four quarters.”

The S&P 500 rose 25.60 points to 3,968.94. The Dow Jones industrial average gained 174.82 points, or 0.5%, to 32,953.46. Both indexes set new all-time closing highs, eclipsing the records they set Friday.

The tech-heavy Nasdaq composite climbed 139.84 points, or 1.1%, to 13,459.71. The Russell 2000 index of smaller-company stocks rose 7.38 points, or 0.3%, to 2,360.17 — another record high.

Bond yields ticked down slightly Monday, with the 10-year U.S. Treasury note falling to 1.61% from 1.62% on Friday. The mild drop in yields affected bank stocks the most, as investors have placed big bets that higher yields would translate into banks charging borrowers higher rates. Bank of America shares fell 0.5%, Wells Fargo dropped 0.7% and Citigroup lost 1.3%.

Technology stocks, which have been hurt by the rise in bond yields, resumed climbing. Apple rose 2.4%, while Tesla gained 2%. The bond market has pulled tech stocks mostly lower this year because as yields push interest rates higher, they make highflying stocks look expensive.

Some economists fear that inflation, which has been dormant over the last decade, could accelerate under the extra demand generated by a surge in government spending. Others disagree, pointing out that there are 9.5 million fewer jobs in the U.S. economy than there were before the pandemic, and arguing that unemployment will keep a lid on inflation.

United Airlines surged 8.3%, the biggest gain in the S&P 500, after the Transportation Security Administration said it screened more than 1.3 million people both Friday and Sunday, the most since the coronavirus outbreak devastated travel a year ago. American Airlines shares rose 7.7%. Delta Air Lines gained 2.3%. JetBlue Airways climbed 5.9%.

Cruise operators, whose shares have been pummeled over the last year, also had a good day. Carnival gained 4.7%, Royal Caribbean climbed 4.8% and Norwegian Cruise Line added 2.4%.

Markets got a mixed message from China. It has led the global recovery, reopening earlier than other countries from coronavirus shutdowns.

Retail sales there jumped nearly 36% in January and February from a year earlier. The outsized gain benefited from a flattering comparison with the low level of activity during last year’s shutdowns, ING said. Meanwhile, China’s jobless rate rose to 5.5% from 5.2% a year earlier, possibly affected by coronavirus flare-ups in some areas, analysts said.

The Shanghai Stock Exchange fell 1%.


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