Wall Street rallies to record-breaking end of turbulent week

By DAMIAN J. TROISE and STAN CHOE
AP Business Writers

NEW YORK (AP) — Stocks rallied to records on Wall Street Friday, and the Dow Jones Industrial Average closed above the 35,000 level for the first time, as the market continued to roar back from its short-lived swoon at the start of the week.

The S&P 500 index climbed 44.31, or 1%, to 4,411.79 to top its prior all-time high, set early last week. The Dow rose 238.20, or 0.7%, to 35,061.55, and the Nasdaq composite gained 152.39, or 1%, to 14,836.99.

All three indexes finished with gains of better than 1% for the week, completely brushing aside the sharp downturn that trimmed 1.6% off the S&P 500 on Monday.

That drop was caused by worries about a potentially sharp slowdown in the economy due to a fast-spreading variant of the coronavirus. But the S&P 500 has since climbed four straight days, as big companies reported better profits than expected and as investors once again saw any dip in stocks as merely a chance to buy low.

The economy continues to recover at a torrid pace, with the question being how much growth will slow in upcoming months and years. A preliminary report from IHS Markit on Friday indicated U.S. manufacturing growth may be unexpectedly accelerating in July, though growth in services industries looks to be slowing more than economists expected.

The yield on the 10-year Treasury gave up some of its gain following the release of the report, but it still rose to 1.27% from 1.26% late Thursday. For months, it has been sending a concerning alarm about the economy as it dropped from a perch of roughly 1.75% in late March. But outside of Monday’s sudden swoon, the S&P 500 has mostly continued to plod higher.

Staffing provider Robert Half International jumped 7.4% for one of Friday’s biggest gains in the S&P 500 after it reported revenue and profit for the latest quarter that topped Wall Street’s expectations. It said it’s seeing a broad-based, global acceleration in demand for its services.

It led a widespread rally across the market, where more than 80% of the stocks in the S&P 500 rose. Communications stocks led the way after Twitter reported results that blew past Wall Street’s forecasts on growing advertising demand. It climbed 3%. Snap, the parent company of social media app Snapchat, soared 23.8% after reporting results that were much better than expected.

Such surprises have become the norm this reporting season. With roughly a quarter of all the profit reports in from S&P 500 companies, nearly 90% have topped Wall Street’s already high expectations for the spring.

Companies in the index are on pace to report roughly 74% growth for earnings in the second quarter from a year earlier, according to FactSet. That would be the strongest growth since the economy was exploding out of the Great Recession at the end of 2009.

Concerns have been rising about inflation, which has burst higher recently. But companies have neverthless been able to maintain their profits, often by raising their own prices.

S&P 500 businesses appear on track to say they made $124 in profit for every $1,000 in sales, according to FactSet. That would be a slight dip from $128 during the first three months of the year, but it would remain comfortably above the average of $108 over the last five years.

American Express rose 1.3% following its quarterly profit report, which showed a surge in revenue amid increased customer spending at restaurants, shops and entertainment venues.

On the losing end was Intel, which fell despite also reporting solid second-quarter earnings. It dropped 5.3%.

Boston Beer Co., which brews Samuel Adams, sank 26% amid worries about fizzling sales of hard seltzer.

As Wall Street looks through 2021 and into next year, a key concern remains the potential for “stagflation,” said Jay Hatfield, CEO of Infrastructure Capital Advisors. That’s when inflation continues rising while economic growth stagnates. Most analysts expect growth to continue moderating as the pandemic fades and the U.S. government and Federal Reserve ease their support.

“How do we get from hypergrowth to stagflation, how do you price that in?” he said. “That’s a key overhang.”

In European stock markets, indexes also rallied by roughly 1%. Asian stock markets were mixed, with Hong Kong’s Hang Seng down 1.4% and South Korea’s Kospi up 0.1%.

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