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Tech shares push stocks higher

Traders on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange.
Investors and traders awaited details of President Biden’s $2-trillion infrastructure plan Wednesday.
(Associated Press)

Stocks closed mostly higher on Wall Street, clinching the fourth straight quarterly gain for the Standard & Poor’s 500 index. The benchmark index rose 0.4% on Wednesday, bringing its gain for the first three months of the year to 5.8%.

The advance of the index, which tracks large U.S. companies, was eclipsed by the 12.4% jump in a popular index tracking small-company stocks.

Investors have favored smaller companies for months in anticipation that the U.S. economy will pick up this year as more people get vaccinated and pandemic restrictions are lifted. On Wednesday, investors were awaiting details of President Biden’s $2-trillion infrastructure and economic revival plan.

The Dow Jones industrial average fell 0.3%, while the Nasdaq rose 1.5%.

Technology stocks powered much of Wednesday’s rally, reflecting solid gains by Apple, Microsoft and Nvidia. Companies that rely on consumer spending also helped lift the market.

The 10-year Treasury yield inched up to 1.74%, close to its highest level since before the pandemic rocked markets a year ago. COVID-19 vaccinations and massive spending plans by Washington have raised expectations for supercharged economic growth and a possible rise in inflation, which has pushed yields higher.

Biden began giving details Wednesday after the market closed about where he wants to steer federal dollars to rebuild roads, bridges and the electricity grid. Such programs could mean gushers of revenue for such companies as raw-material producers and electric-vehicle makers.

To help pay for it, though, businesses may be looking at higher corporate tax rates, which would pressure their profits. Some investors also worry that all the spending and borrowing by the U.S. government could eventually lead to higher interest rates for the economy.

“The question for the market is, what’s next?” said Rob Haworth, senior investment strategy director at U.S. Bank Wealth Management. “March in particular has been a bit of a pause for the market to recalibrate.”

The S&P 500 is on pace to rise about 6% for the first three months of 2021, which would be its fourth straight quarter of gains following its lightning-quick plunge in early 2020 amid pandemic panic.

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Within the index, the leaderboard of performance is virtually the mirror image of earlier in the pandemic. Energy producers, financial businesses and industrial companies are now leading the way, all climbing 10% to 30% this quarter.

Stocks of companies that had been winners in the stay-at-home economy or that had been bid up on expectations for strong growth many years into the future, meanwhile, have lagged behind. Apple is down 7.7% for the quarter, for example, while American Airlines Group is up more than 50%.

AP Business Writer Yuri Kageyama contributed.


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