S&P 500 and Nasdaq touch intraday record highs, but Dow struggles as bulls pile into tech stocks in last days of August

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By Joy Wiltermuth and Mark DeCambre

Energy prices in focus as Hurricane Ida rips through Louisiana, slows to tropical storm

The S&P 500 and the Nasdaq Composite were higher in midday trade Monday, after hitting fresh intraday records, as stock-market investors piled into technology and consumer discretionary shares.

Energy prices also were in focus as officials begin to tally up damages from Hurricane Ida on the Gulf Coast.

How are stock benchmarks trading?

On Friday, the Dow rose 242.68 points, or 0.7%, to 35,455.80, the S&P 500 advanced 39.37 points, or 0.9%, to a record 4,509.37, and the Nasdaq Composite Index jumped 183.69 points, or 1.2%, to a record 15,129.50. The small-capitalization Russell 2000 index climbed 63.17 points, or 2.9%, to 2,277.15.

What’s driving the markets?

Information technology and consumer discretionary stocks were being bought on Monday, helping support a record rally in the S&P 500 and the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite. The gains came as Treasury note yields receded, paving the way for increases in sectors that tend to be rate-sensitive.

Not everyone was cheering the march ever higher for stocks. “I’m nervous about the market,” said Kent Engelke, chief economic strategist at Capitol Securities Management, adding that while technology stocks were rising in the last trading days of August, September historically has been a rough month for equities.

See:What an A.I.-based stock picker says about the market as delta variant delays ‘return to office’

This September comes with added concerns about the recent spike in the cost of living in the U.S., turbulence in Afghanistan and the delta variant of the coronavirus, but also expectations for the Federal Reserve will provide a road map for its eventual pullback of pandemic support for markets.

Read: Stock-market investors scour alternative data for delta variant clues — here’s what they see

“I don’t think inflationary pressures are going to be transitory,” said Engelke, in a phone interview, adding that he thinks the S&P 500 and Nasdaq Composite could reprice by 5% to 15% by the end of 2021, as equity investors adjust to rising costs, including wages, that could prove more than temporary.

Stock-market gains follow Friday’s comments from Powell, who said he favored tapering the Fed’s monthly purchases of $80 billion of Treasurys and $40 billion of mortgage-backed securities beginning this year, but remained vague about the timetable. He also said several factors indicated higher inflation will be temporary, and that the tapering process wouldn’t be meant to signal that rate increases were imminent.

Also see:Fears of a ‘taper tantrum’ in financial markets might be overshadowed by a U.S. debt ceiling conniption

“It seemed the market breathed a sigh of relief after Powell’s speech on Friday,” Chris Larkin, managing director of trading at E-Trade Financial, wrote in emailed comments on Monday.

“But what is uncertain is how long the optimism will last,” wrote Larkin.

Commodities also were in focus after Hurricane Ida, now weakened to a tropical storm, ripped through the Gulf Coast, prompting search and rescue missions to the hardest-hit areas and leaving southeast Louisiana without power, including New Orleans. It was pegged as the fifth-strongest hurricane to ever hit the U.S.

Crude-oil prices rose 0.6% to $69.17 a barrel, while gasoline futures climbed 2% to $2.32 a gallon. Nearly 95% of U.S. oil and gas production in the Gulf Coast region was offline, according to S&P Global Platts.

In economic reports, pending home sales fell 1.8% in July, compared with June, the National Association of Realtors reported Monday. Economists polled by MarketWatch had projected a 0.5% increase for pending home sales in July. Investors also will tune into the August jobs report on Friday.

Read:Delta might stunt U.S. job creation in August, but not enough to derail economy

Which companies are in focus?

How are other assets faring?

Barbara Kollmeyer contributed reporting

-Joy Wiltermuth


(END) Dow Jones Newswires

08-30-21 1303ET

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