The S&P 500 and Nasdaq Composite closed slightly higher on Wednesday, led by technology stocks as traders watched interest rates, Washington political uncertainty and a raging pandemic.
The broader market index gained 0.2% to end the day at 3,809.84. The tech-heavy Nasdaq gained 0.4% to 13,128.95. The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed just 8.22 points, or 0.03%, at 31,060.47.
Intel surged nearly 7% when it was announced that CEO Bob Swan would be stepping down effective February 15. Other tech names also got a bid, with Netflix and Amazon dropping 2.7% and 1.4%, respectively. Apple also closed more than 1% higher.
Wednesday’s moves came as US Treasury rates fell from their March highs. The benchmark yield on 10-year notes fell more than 5 basis points to 1.092%. The 30-year bond yield also fell to 1.823% on Wednesday. On Tuesday the key interest rate stood at 1.187%.
Despite this decline, the 10-year rate remains more than 15 basis points above the 2020 close of 0.92%.
Given the rate hike this year, Credit Suisse advised investors to favor procyclical sectors such as finance and energy. However, rising rates could hurt growth stocks that have been the mainstay of the market during the pandemic.
“Overall, we believe that the interest rate environment will stabilize as investors get used to the shift in inflation expectations,” UBS credit strategist Frank Sileo wrote in a note. “We continue to expect modest profits for 2021.”
The expectation of additional fiscal stimulus is one of the reasons for the steady rise in returns. President-elect Joe Biden is expected to release details of his economic plan on Thursday.
Wall Street had a muted session as major averages paused on their last run to hit record highs.
“The market rally has paused this week,” said Mark Hackett, director of investment research at Nationwide. He noted, however, that “sentiment and risk indicators continue to reflect investor optimism, with credit spreads at their lowest levels since before the pandemic, fear and greed indicators at elevated levels and put / call ratios nearby historical lows. “
Meanwhile, the turmoil in Washington continues. Vice President Mike Pence said Tuesday night he would not remove President Donald Trump from office. It did so before the Democratic House passed a resolution calling on Pence and the cabinet to push Trump out of the White House after instigating the Capitol uprising last week.
The House of Representatives voted Wednesday to indict Trump for the second time. Trump urged all Americans to ease political tensions.
Covid cases continue to increase in the US and abroad as well. The U.S. has at least 247,600 new Covid-19 cases and at least 3,340 virus-related deaths every day, based on a 7-day average calculated by CNBC using data from Johns Hopkins University.
Still, many say the US is ready to grow again later this year.
“In 2021, the US economy should experience a strong tailwind from additional fiscal and monetary stimulus, combined with an end to the impact of the pandemic on the economy,” said Brent Schutte, chief investment strategist at Northwestern Mutual Wealth Management. “Backlog in industries affected by COVID-19 … and the need to rebuild stocks should continue to fuel employment growth,” he added.
Taken together, Schutte said this creates the conditions for above-average economic growth and he sees stocks rise to new highs.
– CNBC’s Jacob Pramuk contributed to the coverage.
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