S&P 500 closes near record high as earnings season begins in earnest

FILE PHOTO: Traders work on the floor at the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York, U.S., April 9, 2019. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid/File Photo

By Stephen Culp

NEW YORK (Reuters) – U.S. stocks closed near record highs on Friday after the largest U.S. bank, JPMorgan Chase Co, soothed worries that the first-quarter earnings season would dampen Wall Street’s big rally back from last year’s slump.

The S&P 500 is now within a percent of September’s record closing high, and the S&P 500 Total Return Index, which includes reinvested dividends, in fact regained record levels, recovering ground lost after a punishing sell-off in the closing months of the year which brought the benchmark index within a rounding error of bear market territory.

Since then, the three major indexes notched their best quarterly gains in nearly a decade in the first quarter, but have spent April in a holding pattern ahead of first-quarter earnings season.

JPMorgan, effectively jump-starting the quarterly earnings reporting season that will dominate investor sentiment in coming weeks, blew past analyst estimates, easing fears that slowing economic growth could weigh on its results. Its stock rose 4.7% and led a broad rally in bank stocks.

“JPMorgan earnings are important because their operation touches on a wide portion of the economy,” said David Carter, chief investment officer at Lenox Wealth Advisors in New York. “It’s a bellwether for other corporate earnings.”

Analyst now expect S&P 500 companies to show a 2.3% year-on-year decline in earnings, slightly improved from their last reading, per Refinitiv data. But first-quarter profit is still seen logging its first annual contraction since 2016.

However, of the 29 companies in the S&P 500 that have reported thus far, 79.3% have come in above analyst expectations.

Walt Disney Co jumped 11.5% to an all-time high, providing the biggest boost to the Dow and the S&P 500 after pricing its upcoming streaming service.

Streaming rival Netflix Inc slid 4.5%.

The Nasdaq and the Dow are both about 1.5% below their previous record highs.

For the week, both the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq showed their third straight gains, while the Dow posted a nominal weekly loss.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 269.25 points, or 1.03%, to 26,412.3, the S&P 500 gained 19.09 points, or 0.66%, to 2,907.41 and the Nasdaq Composite added 36.81 points, or 0.46%, to 7,984.16.

Of the 11 major sectors in the S&P 500, all but healthcare ended the session in positive territory.

Financials were the largest percentage gainer, rising 1.9% on the back of JPMorgan Chase earnings.

Healthcare stocks extended their slide, with UnitedHealth Group down 5.2%, Anthem Inc dropping 8.5% and Humana Inc off 2.8%. The S&P 500 Healthcare index slipped 1.0%.

In the largest energy deal since 2016, Chevron Corp said it would buy Anadarko Petroleum Corp for $33 billion in cash and stock.

Chevron’s stock dipped by 4.9% following the announcement, while Anadarko shot up 32.0%.

Boeing Co rose 2.6% as the plane maker’s stock recovered ground following its recent sell-off.

The CBOE Volatility Index – Wall Street’s so-called “fear gauge” slipped to a fresh six-month low on Friday, in a sign investors expect the good times to keep rolling.

Advancing issues outnumbered declining ones on the NYSE by a 1.86-to-1 ratio; on Nasdaq, a 1.31-to-1 ratio favored advancers.

The S&P 500 posted 60 new 52-week highs and 3 new lows; the Nasdaq Composite recorded 95 new highs and 38 new lows.

Volume on U.S. exchanges was 6.75 billion shares, compared to the 6.97 billion average over the last 20 trading days.

(Reporting by Stephen Culp; additional reporting by Saqib Ahmed; Editing by Susan Thoma)

Slow U.S. jobs growth takes shine off dollar, stocks hold all-time highs

A U.S. five dollar note is seen in this illustration photo June 1, 2017. REUTERS/Thomas White/Illustration

By Vikram Subhedar

LONDON (Reuters) – The dollar retreated slightly after disappointing U.S. jobs growth data on Friday though world stocks clung on to record highs, having gained 11 percent so far this year.

Nonfarm payrolls increased 138,000 last month as the manufacturing, government and retail sectors lost jobs, the Labor Department said on Friday.

While the job gains could still be sufficient for the Federal Reserve to raise interest rates this month, the modest increase could raise concerns about the economy’s health after growth slowed in the first quarter.

“This number is not the kind of report that derails the Fed from raising rates in June,” said Tom Porcelli, chief U.S. economist at RBC Capital Markets in New York.

“We’re in a mature phase of the cycle, job growth is going to slow down. The Fed has been talking about this for over a year at this point and they are braced for that reality.”

The dollar index <.DXY>, which measures the greenback’s strength against a basket of major currencies, fell 0.3 percent.

Stock futures on Wall Street trimmed gains slightly and were last trading little changed.

Overnight, data showing a healthy uptick in private sector hiring and factory activity during May bolstered expectations that the U.S. economy was picking up speed and lifted U.S. stocks after two days of losses.

Those gains filtered through to global stocks, lifting the MSCI All-Country World index <.MIWD00000PUS> 0.4 percent to a record high and on track to post a seventh straight week of gains, the longest such run since 2010.

Stocks in Europe joined the party with German bluechips powering ahead to a record, up 1.6 percent. The UK’s FTSE 100 <.FTSE> also hovered near its highest-ever levels rose 0.4 percent.

So far this year investors have pumped $140 billion globally into stock funds, according to fund flow data from Bank of America Merrill Lynch and EPFR showed on Friday.

Global equities attracted $13.7 billion in the latest week to Wednesday, the largest inflows in five weeks, as investors loaded up on risk.

In commodities, however, oil prices resumed their slide with key futures contracts down more than 2 percent amid worries that U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision to abandon a global climate pact could spark more crude drilling in the United States, stoking a persistent glut in global supply.

Global benchmark Brent crude futures <LCOc1> fell to $49.63 a barrel, while U.S. West Texas Intermediate crude <CLc1> by more than a dollar to $47.36 per barrel.

(Reporting by Vikram Subhedar; Editing by Hugh Lawson and Keith Weir)