Tech gains nudge S&P 500 and Nasdaq to further record highs

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Strength for tech stocks nudged US indexes a bit further into record heights on Monday, more than making up for losses across much of the rest of Wall Street.

The S&P 500 rose 9.91 points, or 0.2%, to 4,290.61 after drifting between small gains and losses for much of the day. It added to its all-time high set Friday as optimism builds about the strengthening economy and expectations that the Federal Reserve will keep interest rates low for a while longer.

Healthy gains for Nvidia, Facebook and other stocks that have been winners of the increasingly online world helped the Nasdaq composite also tick further into record heights.

It rose 140.12, or 1%, to 14,500.51. But the majority of stocks in the S&P 500 and across Wall Street weakened, and the Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped 150.57, or 0.4%, to 34,283.27.

Trading was relatively quiet around the world, with European stocks modestly lower and several Asian indexes nearly unchanged.

The action was more notable in the bond market, where the yield on the 10-year Treasury slumped to 1.47% from 1.53% late on Friday. It was as high as 1.70% last month, but it has been receding as worries about high inflation have calmed a bit.

The drop in long-term rates can crimp the profits banks make from lending money, and financial stocks were some of the biggest drags on the S&P 500. Wells Fargo slipped 1.3%, and Capital One Financial fell 2.5%.

But falling Treasury yields can also make the high price tags for high-growth stocks easier to justify, and gains for tech stocks were the main reason for the S&P 500’s strength.

Apple rose 1.3%, Microsoft gained 1.4% and Intel climbed 2.8%. Nvidia jumped 5% after The Sunday Times in the UK reported several big customers of UK semiconductor company Arm came out in support of its proposed takeover by Nvidia.

Facebook climbed 4.2% after a federal judge dismissed antitrust lawsuits brought against it by the Federal Trade Commission and a group of state attorneys general.

Still, worries remain on Wall Street, and a measure of nervousness in the stock market ticked up by about 1%.

Some measures of the economy may have already hit their peaks after roaring out of the recession caused by the pandemic. Stock prices look expensive to critics after rising much faster than corporate profits.

And inflation remains a worry, even if more investors have come around to the Federal Reserve’s view that it will be only a temporary problem.

Much of the choppiness in the markets is a result of the speed at which the economy has bounced back from its pandemic slump.

The next turning point for the market could come on Friday, when the US government gives the latest monthly update on how many jobs the economy is creating and what wages are doing.

Economists expect the report to show that employers added 700,000 more jobs than they cut in June. That would be an acceleration following a couple months of disappointingly slow hiring.

They also expect the report to show that average hourly earnings jumped 3.7% in June from a year earlier.

A sharp rise in wages would be an even bigger worry about inflation for markets than the recent jump in commodity prices.

Oil, lumber and other commodities have shown this year that they can quickly shoot higher in price, but they can also come down nearly as quickly.

Higher wages for workers, meanwhile, tend to be more durable. If inflation does end up being more than the “transitory” problem that the Fed and many investors seem to believe, that could force the Fed to be more aggressive about raising interest rates quickly and upset markets.

Crude oil prices slipped on Monday, but the cost of a US barrel is still up 50% for the year. That has contributed to petrol prices that are about 90 cents higher than this time last year.