Stock market today: Live updates

The economy has been ticking along without needing a rate cut, says Moneta's Aoifinn Devitt

The S&P 500 rose Wednesday and edged closer to the 5,000 level for the first time as investors parsed through another slate of quarterly results and headed into the back half of the earnings season.

The broad-based index added 0.8%, while the Nasdaq Composite jumped 0.9%. The Dow Jones Industrial Average rallied 175 points, or 0.5%.

“It’s earnings driven, but it’s bleeding over into other companies that may not have announced,” said Kim Forrest, Bokeh Capital’s chief investment officer, of Wednesday’s moves. “They’re getting swept on the coattails. Some of what we’re experiencing this year is people don’t want to be left behind like they were last year.”

Investors turned their attention to a fresh batch of quarterly results. Snap plunged more than 33% on a revenue miss and weak guidance, while automaker Ford gained 1% after beating Wall Street’s fourth-quarter estimates and issuing higher-than-expected guidance.

Enphase Energy popped 18% after the solar company said its inventory glut may be approaching a bottom. The broader solar sector rose in sympathy, with Solaredge Technologies surging 11%.

A better-than-expected earnings season, coupled with upbeat guidance, has been a source of strength for the market in recent weeks, reassuring investors of continued growth in 2024. Much of the earnings upside’s been driven by megacap technology and artificial intelligence-focused names, a phenomenon that’s also contributed to narrow market breadth.

“But strong growth means the last mile of the inflation fight is proving tricky for central banks,” said Emmanuel Cau, head of European equity strategy at Barclays. “So the timing/pace of prospective rate cuts is up for debate and a source of volatility.”

The latest stock market advance has come even as expectations of how far the Fed will cut rates in 2024 have pulled back. Fed Chair Jerome Powell signaled last week that investors will have to wait longer than previously thought for a central bank pivot.

Other Fed speakers have backed up Powell’s cautionary tone, with Minneapolis Federal Reserve President Neel Kashkari saying Wednesday that he anticipates only two to three rate cuts this year.

Regional banks resumed their recent decline. New York Community Bancorp slumped 10% after Moody’s downgraded its credit rating to junk. Shares have fallen 42% in February alone as the bank posted a surprise fourth quarter loss and slashed its dividend amid rising commercial real estate losses.

Another slate of Fed speakers is on tap Wednesday, including remarks from governors Michelle Bowman and Adriana Kugler. That’s followed by quarterly results from Walt Disney, PayPal and Arm Holdings after the bell.

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