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S&P 500 Hits All-Time High             04/15 16:02

   Wall Street notched more milestones Thursday, as a broad market rally pushed 
the S&P 500 to an all-time high and the Dow Jones Industrial Average crossed 
above the 34,000 mark for the first time.

   Wall Street notched more milestones Thursday, as a broad market rally pushed 
the S&P 500 to an all-time high and the Dow Jones Industrial Average crossed 
above the 34,000 mark for the first time.

   The S&P 500 rose 1.1%, with technology, health care and communication stocks 
accounting for much of the upward moves. Only energy and financial companies 
closed lower. Bond yields fell.

   The rally came as investors welcomed a suite of encouraging economic reports 
showing how hungry Americans are to spend again, how fewer workers are losing 
their jobs and how much fatter corporate profits are getting.

   Expectations are very high on Wall Street that the economy -- and thus 
corporate profits -- are in the midst of exploding out of the cavern created by 
the pandemic, thanks to COVID-19 vaccinations and massive support from the U.S. 
government and Federal Reserve. New data on retail sales and jobless claims 
Thursday helped bolster the view that the economic recovery is accelerating.

   "Another day, another record," said Chris Zaccarelli, chief investment 
officer for Independent Advisor Alliance. "The stock market continues to 
validate the optimistic forecasts from last year, which predicted a strong 
economy that was driven by consumers emerging from their homes, emboldened by 
vaccinations or by a belief that the worst of COVID was behind us."

   The S&P 500 rose 45.76 points to 4,170.42, surpassing its previous record 
high of 4,141.59 set on Tuesday. The Dow climbed 304.10 points, or 0.9%, to 
34,035.99. The Dow also set a record high on Friday.

   The Nasdaq composite added 180.92 points, or 1.3%, to 14,038.76, while the 
Russell 2000 index of smaller companies picked up 9.35 points, or 0.4%, to 
2,257.07.

   The rally got off to a swift start Thursday as traders weighed the latest 
batch of economic data and corporate earnings reports.

   One report showed that U.S. retail sales jumped 9.8% in March from February, 
blowing past economists' forecasts for 5.5% growth. Much of the surge was due 
to $1,400 payments from the U.S. government's latest economic rescue effort 
hitting households' bank accounts. Economists said it shows how primed people 
are to spend as the economy reopens and conditions brighten. That's huge for an 
economy that's made up mostly of consumer spending.

   Another report gave an encouraging read on the job market, showing 576,000 
people applied for unemployment benefits last week. That's well below the 
700,000 that economists had forecast and down from 769,000 the prior week. It's 
also the lowest the number has been since the pandemic.

   Adding to the optimism, more big U.S. companies reported even healthier 
profits for the first three months of 2021 than analysts had forecast. 
Expectations are already high for this earnings reporting season, which 
unofficially got underway on Wednesday and could result in the strongest growth 
in more than a decade.

   "You've got various pockets of the market now starting to show a broadening 
recovery," said Sameer Samana, senior global market strategist at Wells Fargo 
Investment Institute.

   BlackRock, PepsiCo and UnitedHealth Group all reported bigger profits for 
the first quarter than analysts expected. BlackRock rose 2.1%, PepsiCo added 
0.1% and UnitedHealth climbed 3.8%.

   Even Delta Air Lines, which reported weaker results for the start of 2021 
than expected, highlighted areas of optimism. It said it could return to making 
profits by late summer if the recovery it's seeing in air travel continues. Its 
shares fell 2.8%.

   With growth expectations so high, some investors are worried about the 
possibility that inflation could swing upward. If it were to sustain itself, 
high inflation could send bond prices tumbling, hurt corporate profit margins 
and trigger volatility across markets worldwide.

   The bond market remained notably calm following Thursday morning's 
stronger-than-expected reports, and longer-term yields actually fell to the 
surprise of some analysts. The yield on the 10-year Treasury dropped to 1.55% 
from 1.63% late Wednesday. Earlier this month, it had gotten as high as 1.75%.

   "That's what's really driving the enthusiasm in the market; not so much the 
economic data, but the fact that rates went down," said Phil Guarco, global 
investment specialist at J.P. Morgan Private Bank.

   The pullback in yields echoes what happened earlier this week, when a report 
on the Consumer Price Index came in higher than expected. It would have made 
sense if the worse-than-expected inflation report had caused investors to sell 
bonds and send yields higher, but they largely shrugged it off.

   Analysts still expect bond yields to tick higher as the year goes on and the 
economy continues recovering, along with investors shifting money into sectors 
that will see a greater benefit from the recovery.

   "When you're thinking about GDP growth, it's really hard to see why the 
10-year shouldn't be higher," Samana said.

   The surprising reaction may be a result of how unpredictable data can be as 
the pandemic and government efforts to counteract it distort everything. And, 
for now at least, the numbers seem to be pointing toward more strength.

   The falling yields helped send financial stocks to some of the market's 
sharpest losses, because lower long-term interest rates limit the profits banks 
make from lending. Bank of America fell 2.9%, and Citigroup slid 0.5%, for 
example, even though both had earlier in the day reported stronger profits for 
the first three months of 2021 than expected.

 
 
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