Belfast Telegraph

Nasdaq trades at new record as US stocks flutter

US stock indexes fluttered up and down on Thursday - then ended the day a fraction above where they started.

The slight gains were enough to nudge the Nasdaq composite to another record and the Standard & Poor's 500 index to within a whisper of its all-time high.

It was the second straight day where indexes made only modest moves, a downshift from big gains made early in the week. The Standard & Poor's 500 index rose 1.32 points, or 0.1 per cent, to 2,388.77 and is within a third of a per cent of its record.

The Dow Jones industrial average added 6.24 points, less than 0.1 per cent, to 20,981.33. The Nasdaq composite rose 23.71, or 0.4 per cent, to 6,048.94 and reached a closing high for the third time in four days.

Gains by Under Armour, Comcast and other companies reporting stronger-than-expected profits on Thursday helped to offset a slump in energy stocks.

The encouraging reports added to the lengthening list of companies saying they earned more in the first three months of 2017 than Wall Street had forecast. Analysts expect this to be the strongest quarter of growth in years.

The reports have helped lift stocks and temper concerns, at least a bit, that the market had grown too expensive.

"Expectations were high, and they needed to deliver, so thankfully they have delivered," said Nate Thooft, senior portfolio manager at Manulife Asset Management. "As long as earnings continue to follow through and economic data doesn't roll over materially, stocks can keep going. People will say that valuations are expensive, but I would say, 'Yeah, but not relative to fixed income.'"

Under Armour jumped to the biggest gain in the S&P 500 after reporting bigger profits than analysts expected. A rise in sales abroad, particularly in Asia, helped push its revenue to 1.12 billion dollars from 1.05 billion dollars in last year's first quarter. The company's A-class shares climbed 1.96 dollars, or 9.9 percent, to 21.67 dollars.

PayPal Holdings jumped 2.74 dollars, or 6.2 per cent, to 47.15 dollars after also reporting stronger revenue and earnings than Wall Street had forecast.

Comcast's A shares rose 80 cents, or 2.1 per cent, to 39.59 dollars after stronger revenue at theme parks it acquired as part of its NBC Universal purchase helped it to report stronger first-quarter results than analysts expected.

Even some of the day's losers reported better-than-expected results. American Airlines fell 2.42 dollars, or 5.2 per cent, to 43.98 dollars, for example. Investors were paying more attention to its plans to raise pay for pilots and flight attendants, which would erode future profits, than its earnings from the latest quarter.

Energy stocks were also weak, slumping with the price of oil. Benchmark US crude dropped 65 cents, or 1.3 per cent, to settle at 48.97 dollars per barrel, while Brent crude, which is used to price international oils, fell 38 cents to 51.44 dollars a barrel.

Noble Energy lost 1.59 dollars, or 4.7 per cent, to 32.57 dollars, and offshore-drilling contractor Transocean fell 39 cents, or 3.4 per cent, to 11.06 dollars.

The incremental moves made by stock indexes the last two days belie the many cross-currents coursing through the market. Stocks jumped early in the week, in part on relief following the first round of France's presidential election. Results indicate France may not try to break apart from the European Union.

Washington is also a big factor. White House officials unveiled the broad outlines of a tax plan Wednesday, though many specifics are still to be determined. Expectations for lower taxes, plus less regulation for businesses, have helped drive stocks higher since November. A potential shutdown of the federal government also looms unless Congress can agree on a spending bill.

In European stock markets, the French CAC 40 fell 0.3 per cent, the German DAX slipped 0.2 per cent and the FTSE 100 in London dropped 0.7 per cent. In Asia, the Nikkei 225 in Japan slipped 0.2 per cent, South Korea's Kospi added 0.1 per cent and the Hang Seng in Hong Kong rose 0.5 per cent.

The price of gold rose 1.70 dollars to settle at 1,265.90 dollars an ounce, silver slipped 10 cents to 17.27 dollars per ounce and copper fell a penny to 2.58 dollars per pound.

Natural gas slipped 3 cents to settle at 3.24 dollars per 1,000 cubic feet, heating oil fell 3 cents to 1.51 dollars per gallon and wholesale gasoline dropped 4 cents to 1.55 dollars per gallon.

The euro fell to 1.0882 dollars from 1.0899 dollars late Wednesday while the dollar slipped to 111.23 Japanese yen from 111.38 yen. The British pound rose to 1.2903 dollars from 1.2843 dollars.

Treasury yields ticked lower as government bond prices rose. The 10-year Treasury yield edged down to 2.29 per cent from 2.30 per cent late on Wednesday.

AP

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