Traders work on the floor at the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York City, U.S., February 29, 2024. 

Brendan McDermid | Reuters

The S&P 500 rose on Wednesday following a losing session on Wall Street that pulled the indexes further from record levels.

The S&P 500 gained 0.3% as it tried to snap a three-day losing streak. The Dow Jones Industrial Average advanced 254 points, or 0.6%. The Nasdaq Composite, on the other hand, was trading relatively unchanged.

The two best-performing stocks in the S&P 500 include Cintas, up 8% on the back of better-than-expected earnings. Shares of Merck were up nearly 5% — hitting a new all-time high — after the Food and Drug Administration passed approval for Winrevair, the company’s life threatening lung condition treatment, for use among patients with pulmonary arterial hypertension.

Those moves follow a negative day for the three major indexes. The Dow slipped nearly 0.1%, while the Nasdaq Composite fell 0.4% as technology stocks struggled. With a slide of 0.3%, the S&P 500 saw its third down trading day in a row.

That action comes after stocks closed at record levels last week. Despite the recent pullback, the indexes are still on pace to end the trading month and quarter, which both conclude with Thursday’s closing bell, in the green.

As of Tuesday’s close, the S&P 500 has added 2.1% in the month and 9.1% in the quarter. The Nasdaq has climbed 1.4% in March and 8.7% over the three-month period, while the Dow has added 0.7% and 4.2% in the respective periods.

This would mark the best first-quarter gain for the S&P 500 and Dow Jones since 2019 and 2021, respectively, when the indexes rose 13.1% and 7.4%. All three major averages are on pace to notch their fifth straight winning month and second straight winning quarter.

“It really becomes a question of does an external factor emerge that shakes the market out of its current lethargySo in a low volatility environment, where realized volatility is quite low, the incentive to generate profits by selling protection on equities, or taking larger risks in equities, things like call overriding, or flip selling, those are all very supportive to the markets in terms of price. But they also don’t suggest that that, you know, there is a full commitment to the process of just being long equities. And so if we encounter an event that causes volatility to rise, and there’s been lots of potential candidates, I would highlight the increase in volatility around China, or the Mexican interest rate cuts or the interest rate cuts from the Swiss National Bank. These are all suggesting that a regime of stability is is going to face more pressure in the next couple of months. Anytime change kicks in, it becomes a source of uncertainty.

Later in the week, investors will watch for data on jobless claims, gross domestic product and consumer sentiment on Thursday. While the market is closed on Good Friday, attention will be on releases tied to personal income, consumer spending and the personal consumption expenditures expected in the morning.


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