S&P 500 closes at record high as investors assess strong earnings, tax battle in Congress
By Thornton McEnery and William Watts
Digital World Acquisition Corp share surge more than 350%
The S&P 500 index booked its first closing record in seven weeks on Thursday, as investors digested a parade of earnings reports and monitored a potential setback in White House efforts to raise the corporate tax rate.
What did major indexes do?
On Wednesday, stocks rose with the Dow Jones Industrial Average finishing 0.05% away from its Aug. 16 record close and the S&P 500 ending just 0.02% away from its record settlement. The Nasdaq Composite eked out a small gain, leaving it 1.6% away from its Sept. 7 closing record.
What drove the market?
A good start to third-quarter earnings season has helped investors put the nervousness of September behind them, even as concerns over inflation, COVID-19 and China's economy still linger.
Of the approximately 70 S&P 500 companies that have reported results so far, 86% posted earnings that topped analysts expectations, according to Refinitiv.
That optimism appears to be spreading, said Baird's Michael Antonelli, as investors begin to embrace a fading pandemic, a strong economy moving into yet another solid earnings season, a correction in the rearview mirror and that stocks usually perform best in the fourth quarter.
Antonelli, a market strategist, was even sanguine about inflation.
"They are talking about supply chain issues and logistics on the Today Show. Meanwhile the ports are opening 24/7, the rails are running 24/7, and once we get trucking sorted out supply chains will unclog," he said. "We just can't look at inflation right now without acknowledging the bottlenecks."
Investors also monitored developments around President Joe Biden's proposed spending bills, after The Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday that Democratic Senator Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona would oppose any increases in the tax rates for businesses, the rich or capital gains.
"The idea of no significant [tax] rate hikes could be a positive for the stock market, which has worried about the impact of a rate increase from 21% now to 25% on corporations," said Greg Valliere, chief U.S. policy strategist at AGF Investments, in a note. "But this might not be a victory, since other provisions -- many controversial -- may have to be considered to make up the revenue gap."
The Washington Post reported late Wednesday that Biden's advisers are floating new plans, including a tax on billionaires' assets, a minimum tax on corporations and a tax on companies issuing stock buybacks, potentially raising hundreds of billions of dollars.
Read:White House mulls Plan B, with new taxes for billionaires, stock buybacks: report
In other news, indebted Chinese property developer, Evergrande , was back in the headlines on Thursday after the property developer ended talks to sell most of its property services division.
Investors continue to sift through earnings, including results from Dow component
Federal Reserve officials in recent days, including Governors Christopher Waller and Randal Quarles, and Cleveland Fed President Loretta Mester, may be laying the groundwork for interest-rate hikes next year if high inflation persists.
The U.S. economy still is growing at a solid pace, the Federal Reserve's Beige Book noted Wednesday, but labor shortages and supply-chain bottlenecks are restraining growth and triggering higher inflation.
On the economic front, U.S. data showed first-time applications for unemployment benefits fell to 290,000 from 296,000 in the week ended Oct.16. Economists had looked for a figure of 300,000. The Philadelphia Fed's October manufacturing index fell to 23.8 from 24.5 a month earlier, compared with expectations for a rise to 30.7.
U.S. existing-home sales rose 7% on a monthly basis in September, reaching a seasonally-adjusted, annual rate of 6.29 million, the National Association of Realtors said Thursday.
The U.S. leading economic index grew a softer 0.2% in September, indicating somewhat slower growth, the Conference Board said Thursday.
Which companies were in focus?
What did other markets do?
(END) Dow Jones Newswires
October 21, 2021 16:38 ET (20:38 GMT)
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