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Wall Street posts slight gains as financials lead before earnings

The financial index <.SPSY> was the best performer among the 11 major S&P sectors

Reuters  |  New York 

A souvenir license plate is seen outside the New York Stock Exchange in Manhattan, New York. Photo: Reuters
Quarterly earnings kick off on Friday with three of the biggest US banks. Photo: Reuters

posted slight gains on Thursday and the hit another record high close, with financials rising ahead of profit reports due Friday from several big

The financial index <.SPSY> was the best performer among the 11 major S&P sectors, ending up 0.61 per cent.

Quarterly earnings kick off on Friday with three of the biggest US banks, including JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo and Citigroup reporting results.

"People are a trying to buy in ahead of tomorrow," said Brad McMillan, chief investment officer for Commonwealth Financial in Waltham, Massachusetts.

Analysts estimate second-quarter earnings for S&P 500 companies rose 7.8 per cent from a year ago, with financials projected to have had the third-best profit growth among sectors, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Over the last seven trading days, investors have more than doubled the amount of cash invested in a key financial sector fund, betting that second-quarter bank earnings will be strong.

The Jones Industrial Average <.DJI> rose 20.95 points, or 0.1 per cent, to 21,553.09, the S&P 500 <.SPX> gained 4.61 points, or 0.19 per cent, to 2,447.86 and the Composite <.IXIC> added 13.27 points, or 0.21 per cent, to 6,274.44.

Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen told a Senate panel on Thursday that it would be "quite challenging" for U.S. growth to reach a 3-per cent target set by President Donald Trump.

The S&P 500 healthcare index <.SPXHC> was up 0.09 per cent, barely moving on news of U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's unveiling of a revised healthcare bill.

"Even if this bill is passed, there will be multiple iterations of healthcare legislation to come," said Jamie Cox, managing partner at Harris Financial Group in Richmond, Virginia.

"This is not a watershed moment like the Affordable Care Act, where it altered the healthcare industry," he said.

Hospital and insurer groups have been vocal against proposed Medicaid cuts which could result in lower revenues for hospitals like Community Health Systems Inc and Medicaid insurance specialists like Molina Healthcare and Centene Corp .

Investors are eager to move past the healthcare bill and onto comprehensive tax reform, though Congress's ability to address it soon are in doubt, Cox said.

Target Corp rose 4.8 per cent after an upbeat second-quarter forecast. The news boosted other retailers, with Wal-Mart up 1.5 per cent and Costco edging up 1.2 per cent.

Delta Air Lines Inc on Thursday reported a 21 per cent drop in second-quarter profit because of sharply higher operating costs, despite higher passenger unit revenue, sending its shares down about 1.8 per cent.

About 5.8 billion shares changed hands on US exchanges, below the 6.8 billion daily average for the past 20 trading days, according to Thomson Reuters data.

Advancing issues outnumbered declining ones on the NYSE by a 1.11-to-1 ratio; on Nasdaq, a 1.01-to-1 ratio favoured advancers.

(Only the headline and picture of this report may have been reworked by the Business Standard staff; the rest of the content is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

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