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S&P 500, Nasdaq book 3rd straight day of gains on better corporate earnings than feared

4:29 pm ET July 21, 2022 (MarketWatch)

By Joy Wiltermuth and Joseph Adinolfi

Tech-heavy Nasdaq surged 1.4%, leading three indexes to their highest levels in six weeks.

U.S. stocks closed higher Thursday with all three benchmarks touching their highest levels in six weeks, as weak economic data was offset by healthy second-quarter earnings from Tesla Inc. and others.

How stocks are trading

On Wednesday, the Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 48 points, or 0.15%, to 31875, the S&P 500 increased 0.5%, to 3960, and the Nasdaq Composite gained 1.5% to 11898. The Russell 2000 index has gained 89.53 points or 5.15% over the last two trading days, its largest two-session percentage gain since January 7, 2021.

What's driving markets

Stronger-than-expected second quarter corporate earnings have helped stocks to recover to their best levels in more than a month this week, even as economic data suggest the U.S. economy is slowing.

On the corporate earnings front, shares of Danaher Corporation (DHR), Philip Morris International (PM), and Tesla(TSLA) all traded higher as Wall Street cheered their second-quarter results.

Read: Here's the incredibly strong signal for stocks that is coming from the corporate bond market

"It's an earnings rally, which I think will continue through the remainder of the summer," said Peter Cardillo, chief market economist at Spartan Capital, by phone.

Next week's raft of coming earnings reports from large companies should help investors "come to some conclusions" about the overall health of companies, he said, including how businesses have been coping with high inflation, tighter monetary policy and the threat of a recession.

About 18% of S&P 500 index companies have reported earnings for the second quarter so far and of those, about 71% have beaten expectations, according to FactSet.

The outlook for Federal Reserve policy is still of paramount importance for markets though, said Matthew Tuttle, CEO of Tuttle Capital Management.

"We're focused on earnings, we're focused on rates. Rates are down again this morning, that's a positive," he said.

"But I think we're focused on the battle between two possible scenarios, which is: runaway inflation with really high rates, or recession with rates not as high as we thought they would be, with the possibility of an actual cut."

In economic data, U.S. weekly jobless claims continued to rise last week, increasing to more than 250,000 for the first time since November

The U.S. leading economic index fell for the fourth month in a row and may be pointing to recession around end of the year, the Conference Board said.

But Cardillo said a recession scenario is what the "market is already discounting," after a bruising start to 2022 across financial assets. "The central banks are now on the path of fighting inflation, and the market likes that," he said. "That's not a negative."

The S&P 500 index in June hit an 18-month low on worries about how surging inflation and tighter monetary policy would crimp company profits, but it has since rallied on a view that those fears may be overdone.

The yield on the 10-year Treasury note fell below 3% Thursday as investors digested signs of a lowing U.S. economy and President Biden tested positive for COVID-19.

The improved mood of late is particularly evident in signs of resurgent demand for some of the more speculative stocks that got badly hit over the past year or so.

For example, shares in the ARK Innovation ETF (ARKK), run by high-profile fund manager Cathie Wood, were up 1.8% on Thursday, having jumped 10.8% over the past five sessions. Still, the fund, which includes the likes of Zoom (ZM), Tesla, Teladoc (TDOC) and Roku (ROKU), is off 60% over the past 12 months.

Some observers remain cautious, however, and worry the latest bounce is just another bear market recovery. The burden of proof is on the bulls to extend the summer rally, said markets strategists at Bank of America.

"Even if a summer recovery continues beyond 3946 [for the S&P 500], there is plenty of resistance near 4157-4178 ahead of weaker seasonality into September/October," said a team of BofA quantitative analysts in a note to clients.

Over in Europe, the European Central Bank hiked its benchmark interest rate for the first time in 11 years, while also approving an "anti-fragmentation tool" intended to stop yields on European bonds from spiraling out of control. The central bank is hiking rates to try to suppress inflation in the eurozone, which has risen sharply in the wake of the pandemic and the war in Ukraine.

Stocks in focus

How are other assets faring

---Additional reporting by Jamie Chisholm and Isabel Wang

-Joy Wiltermuth


(END) Dow Jones Newswires

July 21, 2022 16:29 ET (20:29 GMT)

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