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Market Snapshot: Dow, S&P 500 record best day in 7 weeks as tech stocks rally

U.S. stocks shot higher Thursday, with the Nasdaq Composite leading the way up, as technology stocks rallied following results from Facebook parent Meta Platforms that weren’t as bad as feared.

Investors also seemed to brush off data that showed the U.S. economy contracted unexpectedly in the first quarter.

What’s happening

The Dow Jones Industrial Average
DJIA,
+1.75%

was up 582 points, or 1.8%, at 33,886, after briefly dipping into negative territory at midmorning.

The S&P 500
SPX,
+2.39%

was up 97 points, or 2.3%, at 4,281.

The Nasdaq Composite
COMP,
+2.97%

advanced 342points, or 2.8%, at 12,834, after also briefly trading in negative territory.

On Wednesday, the Dow rose 62 points, or 0.2%, while the S&P 500 gained 0.2% and the Nasdaq Composite failed to hold a bounce, ending the day with a loss of less than 0.1%.

The S&P 500 is down 5.8% for April, heading for its biggest monthly decline since March 2020. The Nasdaq Composite has lost about 10% since the start of April and is on pace for its worst monthly performance since October 2008. The Dow has lost about 3% so far in April.

What’s driving markets

Major indexes added gains after a strong open tied to results from Meta Platforms
FB,
+18.42%
.
Though they weren’t well ahead of consensus, as revenue actually came in weaker than forecast, expectations were low given the 48% decline this year in the stock. Shares remained up 11%.

Meta’s better-than-forecast subscriber numbers sets the stage for two other megacap tech stock results due after the close Thursday, Amazon.com
AMZN,
+4.78%

and Apple
AAPL,
+4.51%
.
Though the stock-market decline for Amazon hasn’t been as severe as Meta’s, its stock is just 2% above its 52-week intraday low.

“Earnings are coming out and they are really strong, even though companies are facing tough comps,” said Max Wasserman, founder and senior portfolio manager at Miramar Capital, near Chicago.

“The problem is on the macro side,” Wasserman said by phone, while pointing to supply-chain bottlenecks, high inflation, uncertainty about whether the Federal Reserve can tighten financial conditions without unleashing a recession and Russia’s war in Ukraine.

Investors also were weighing a first look at first-quarter economic growth, with gross domestic product showing a 1.4% annualized contraction after a 6.9% expansion in the final quarter of 2021. Economists surveyed by The Wall Street Journal had forecast 1% growth, but some had warned of the potential for a negative number.

“It’s likely that future adjustments will improve the number but it has taken some steam out of the enthusiasm of the positive earnings announcement this week,” said Louis Navellier, chairman of Navellier and Associates, in a note.

As economists had warned, the decline was mostly due to a record international trade deficit, lower government spending and declining inventories, but robust consumer spending and businesses investment signaled the economy was still expanding at a steady pace.

Chris Zaccarelli, chief investment officer for the Independent Advisor Alliance, said the data should still serve as a warning to investors.

“With the Fed beginning to aggressively raise interest rates, stock and bond markets have already been rattled. They’ve regained their footing and there is a lot to be optimistic about in terms of corporate earnings growth, corporate balance sheets and a resilient consumer, but all of that can change quickly, so it’s important to be prepared for a wider range of outcomes over the next 1-2 years,” he said, in emailed comments.

Given the tougher backdrop, Wasserman expects choppy markets for at least the next three months as the Fed looks to get inflation under control. He also sees the potential for another 5% to 10% drawdown for the S&P 500 over that stretch, as markets adjust to likely higher interest rates.

The yen
USDJPY,
+2.08%

meanwhile slumped to a fresh 20-decade low after the Bank of Japan didn’t alter its easy monetary policy stance.

See: Dollar domination continues, as yen slumps to two-decade low

Which companies are in focus?

Shares of Teladoc Health Inc.
TDOC,
-42.42%

tumbled 45% after the telemedicine company cut its full-year outlook.

McDonald’s Corp.
MCD,
+3.45%

shares rose 3.3% after beating expectations on earnings and revenue.

Merck
MRK,
+5.28%

shares rose after the drug company topped estimates for the first quarter, buoyed by more than $3 billion in sales of its COVID-19 antiviral.

Shares of Southwest Airlines
LUV,
+1.20%

 climbed after the air carrier reported a wider-than-expected first-quarter loss but revenue that beat expectations, amid a “sharp rebound” in March. 

Caterpillar
CAT,
-1.90%

fell 3.4% after the maker of construction and mining equipment blew past estimates for the first quarter. 

Other assets

The yield on the 10-year Treasury note
TMUBMUSD10Y,
2.864%

rose 6 basis points to 2.87%. Yields and debt prices move opposite each other.

Oil futures pushed higher, with the U.S. benchmark
CL.1,
+2.53%

up 2.3% at $104.33 a barrel. Gold futures
GC00,
+0.05%

edged 0.1% higher to trade near $1,890 an ounce.

Bitcoin
BTCUSD,
+3.10%

rose 2.9% to trade above $40,000.

The Stoxx Europe 600
SXXP,
+0.62%

rose 0.6%, while London’s FTSE 100
UKX,
+1.13%

advanced 1.1%.

The Shanghai Composite
SHCOMP,
+0.58%

rose 0.6%, while the Hang Seng Index
HSI,
+1.65%

in Hong Kong and Japan’s Nikkei 225
NIK,
+1.75%

each jumped 1.7%.

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