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Rare retail bright spot, US Fed minutes boosts S&P, Nasdaq to record highs

Nasdaq was up 36.52 points at 6,199.54


The Nasdaq logo is displayed at the Nasdaq Market site in New York
The Nasdaq logo is displayed at the Nasdaq Market site in New York

The 500 and Composite were in record territory in late morning trading on Thursday, buoyed by strong earnings from the embattled retailer sector.

Sentiment also got a boost after the minutes of the Federal Reserve's latest meeting showed policymakers expected the economy to pick up momentum and an interest rate hike would come sooner rather than later.

While gains were broad based, the consumer discretionary index's 0.83 per cent surge was easily the highest among the 11 major sectors.

Best Buy surged as much as 17 per cent to a record high of $58.99, making it the top gainer on the S&P, as its comparable sales unexpectedly rose last quarter.

Tommy Hilfiger-owner PVH was second-biggest gainer with a 7 per cent jump to a near 6-month high on strong results. Sears soared as much as 32 per cent after posting its first quarterly profit in nearly two years.

Analysts also said the 500 being able to break through and stay above the 2,400 level for the third straight session has also provided technical support.

"Breaking through 2,400 on the 500 is a bit of a technical help, so you're getting the benefit of people coming into the market since that level was such a staunch resistance for so long," said Robert Pavlik, chief market strategist at Boston Private Wealth in New York.

At 10:50 a.m. ET (1450 GMT) the Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 81.44 points, or 0.39 per cent, at 21,093.86.

The 500 was up 11.22 points, or 0.46 per cent, at 2,415.61, easing a bit after touching a record of 2,415.86.

The was up 36.52 points, or 0.59 per cent, at 6,199.54. The index hit an all-time high of 6,202.50.

The only index in the red was energy, off 0.11 per cent as crude oil prices fell after the OPEC agreed to extend output cuts, but not by as much as investors had hoped for. [O/R]

Minutes of the Fed's latest meeting, released on Wednesday afternoon, showed that while policymakers backed a rate hike, they also agreed to hold off until it was clear a recent slowdown in the economy was temporary.

Fed officials also proposed a plan to wind down its $4.5 trillion of debt securities, including a limit on how much would be allowed to fall off the balance sheet each month.

"The Fed reducing the size of their balance sheet over a gradual period rather than doing that all at one time or in larger chunks is a positive," said Pavlik.

Advancing issues outnumbered decliners on the NYSE by 1,903 to 806. On the Nasdaq, 1,750 issues rose and 873 fell.

The 500 index showed 71 new 52-week highs and four new lows, while the recorded 93 new highs and 29 new lows.