Stocks close higher, capping a 3rd straight week of gains

By DAMIAN J. TROISE and ALEX VEIGA
AP Business Writers

Bond yields rebounded solidly and stock indexes notched new highs Friday as Wall Street closed out a choppy, holiday-shortened week of trading with the market’s third straight weekly gain.

The S&P 500 index rose 1.1% to an all-time high for the second time this week. The benchmark index more than made up for its losses a day earlier, giving it a 0.4% gain for the week. The gains were broad with about 90% of the stocks in the S&P 500 closing higher. Banks, technology companies and industrial stocks powered much of the rally.

The gains followed bursts of selling this week as bond yields fell sharply, a sign that investors might be turning cautious after a recent run of record highs for stocks. Bond yields also reversed course Friday. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note jumped to 1.36% from 1.28% a day earlier.

“Today was ‘just let’s take a breath on all of this position-changing,” said Tom Martin, senior portfolio manager with Globalt Investments.

The S&P 500 index rose 48.73 points to 4,369.55. The Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 448.23 points, or 1.3%, to 34,870.16, also a record high. The Nasdaq composite added 142.13 points, or 1%, to 14,701.92, the tech-heavy index’s third all-time high this week.

Small-company stocks did much better than the rest of the market. The Russell 2000 index rose 48.33 points, or 2.2%, to 2,280.

The market rally comes as investors turn their attention toward company earnings, which kicks off next week, starting with major banks like JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup, Bank of America and Wells Fargo. Analysts expect another strong quarter for Wall Street, due to the improving economy and fewer Americans defaulting on loans compared with earlier in the pandemic.

Banks have been among the best-performing stocks in the S&P 500 this year. The KBW Bank Index of the 24 largest banks is up 27% this year alone, compared with the 16% gain of the S&P 500.

Investors continue to gauge the potential impact from COVID-19 variants, particularly the highly contagious delta variant, as governments in some countries reimpose lockdowns and travel restrictions. The problem has been particularly bad in Asia and Oceania, where countries that largely avoided the earlier outbreaks are now dealing with quickly growing caseloads of their own.

The rising number of coronavirus cases has been one of the reasons why investors have moved back into bonds in recent days. Thursday’s yield of 1.28% on the 10-year Treasury note was down sharply from its recent high of 1.75% in late March. Bond prices rise when yields fall.

Investors have also been closely watching the Federal Reserve to see how it reacts to the recovering economy and whether it will pull some of its support sooner than expected. In a report to Congress released Friday, the central bank said its low interest rate policies are providing “powerful support” for the economy as it recovers from the coronavirus pandemic. It indicated that it plans to continue that support until more economic progress is made.

United Airlines rose 2.9% after saying it will add nearly 150 flights this winter to warm-weather destinations in the U.S. and will also add flights to beach spots in Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean.

Biogen slid 3% for the biggest drop in the S&P 500 after the acting head of the Food and Drug Administration called for a government investigation into highly unusual contacts between her agency’s drug reviewers and the drugmaker. The move is the latest fallout since the FDA approved Biogen’s controversial Alzheimer’s drug Aduhelm last month against the advice of the agency’s own panel of outside advisers.

Oil prices continued to march higher, with U.S. crude oil briefly touching $75 a barrel overnight. It rose 2.2% to $74.56 a barrel on Friday. Members of the OPEC oil cartel have yet to come to a consensus on whether to increase oil production or not, which has caused volatility in energy markets the past two weeks.

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AP Business Writer Joe McDonald contributed from Beijing.

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