S&P 500 Hits New Record High After Inflation, Jobs Data

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Topline

The S&P 500 hit a new record high for the first time in more than a month Thursday as economic data pointed to improvements in the ongoing pandemic recovery, sparking renewed bullishness among investors. 

Key Facts

The S&P climbed nearly 30 points, or 0.7%, Thursday morning, surpassing 4,248 points and besting an intraday high of 4,238 points reached on May 7.

The Dow Jones industrial average, meanwhile, jumped 0.5% to 34,609 points, coming within 0.5% of its latest high, which was also on May 7.

The index’s latest closing high was also on May 7, when it ended the day at 4,232.6 points. 

The tech-heavy Nasdaq, which has underperformed the broader market in recent months after a year of massive outperformance, jumped 0.7%, though it’s still nearly 0.8% off a February record.

A slew of healthcare and tech stocks headed up the market rally, with ServiceNow, Eli Lilly and Biogen climbing roughly 3% apiece.Pharmaceutical giant Merck and pharmacy chain Walgreens led the Dow, adding 2.8% and 2.2%, respectively.

The Thursday stock gains came after new jobless claims fell for the sixth-straight week and hit a new pandemic low of 376,000, according to the Labor Department.

Tangent

Consumer prices rose 0.6% between April and May and 5% over the 12 months ending in May—the highest annual rate in 13 years and more than economists were expecting. “Whilst it is true that the pandemic’s economic disruption has radically changed consumers’ spending patterns around the world, raising concerns around increased inflation, these levels are what we would expect and represent a short-term trend that will correct over time,” Oliver Wright, a global consumer goods  and services lead at Accenture, said of the report.

Key Background

Bold central bank measures around the world helped ward off a grave and prolonged economic downturn during the pandemic, but experts in recent weeks have worried a global economy awash with cash could cause problematic inflation and tank markets down the line. That tension came to a head before last month’s consumer price index report, which showed inflation spiked to a 13-year high of 4.2% in April. Stocks plunged ahead of the reading and then struggled to pare back losses for weeks, but the Federal Reserve has since helped ease concerns by insisting it won’t ease its accommodative policy until the economy reaches full employment and inflation that consistently overshoots 2%. Thursday’s CPI report marks only the second month in more than a year that inflation clocks in above 2%, and the same-day unemployment report was worse than economists expected despite the week-over-week improvement. 

Further Reading

Prices Soared 5% On A Yearly Basis In May (Forbes)