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Bond Yields Rise, Stocks Push to Records as Economy Cruises

It's a striking reversal for the market from a year ago, when stocks around the world were tumbling on worries that another recession was on the way

In a Thursday, Feb. 9, 2017 file photo, stock traders follow market activity, at the New York Stock Exchange, photo: AP/Mark Lennihan
9 months ago

NEW YORK – Stocks and bond yields punched higher Wednesday, and U.S. indexes set records again, following more encouraging news on the U.S. economy.

The Standard & Poor’s 500 index rose 11.67 points, or 0.5 percent, to 2,349.25. It’s the seventh straight gain for the index and its longest winning streak in three and a half years. The Dow Jones industrial average rose 107.45 points, or 0.5 percent, to 20,611.86. The Nasdaq composite rose 36.87, or 0.6 percent, to 5,819.44. Seven stocks rose on the New York Stock Exchange for every five that fell.

It’s a striking reversal for the market from a year ago, when stocks around the world were tumbling on worries that another recession was on the way. Since then, the economy and job market have continued to improve, along with corporate profits. And the market got a jolt of adrenaline in November, when Donald Trump’s surprise White House victory raised hopes for tax cuts and other business-friendly policies from Washington.

The S&P 500 is up nearly 26 percent over the last 12 months, with more than half of the gain coming since Election Day. Such a performance would rank among the best calendar years the index has had in the last three decades.

On Wednesday, reports showed that retailers had stronger sales in January than economists expected, and inflation at the consumer level was the highest in years. Consumer prices rose 2.5 percent in January from a year earlier, the highest rate since March 2012. The data give the Federal Reserve more encouragement to raise interest rates, and economists said the possibility is increasing that it may happen at the central bank’s next meeting in March.

Fed Chair Janet Yellen indicated in testimony before a Congressional committee that the central bank will likely accelerate its pace of increases if the job market remains healthy and inflation keeps climbing. The Fed has raised rates just twice in the last two years, after holding rates at nearly zero from late 2008 to help lift the economy out of the Great Recession.

“What really stuck out to me in Yellen’s testimony was her adding emphasis to the idea that as things currently stand, even without fiscal stimulus, it would be prudent to hike sooner rather than later,” said Brian Jacobsen, chief portfolio strategist at Wells Fargo Funds Management. “So if we do see tax cuts or infrastructure spending, they may need to quicken the pace of rate hikes. The bond market has clearly gotten the message.”

Dollar signs are seen alongside the signs for other currencies at a currency exchange shop in Hong Kong, China, November 1, 2014. Photo: Reuters/Damir Sagolj

Treasury yields jumped as investors sold off bonds. The 10-year Treasury yield rose to 2.50 percent from 2.47 percent late Tuesday. The 30-year yield rose to 3.08 percent from 3.06 percent.

When bonds pay more in interest, it can mean less demand from income investors for stocks that pay big dividends. Utility stocks in the S&P 500, which are some of the biggest dividend payers, fell 0.4 percent.

In Europe, the German DAX index rose 0.2 percent, while the French CAC 40 rose 0.6 percent and the U.K.’s FTSE 100 added 0.5 percent. In Asia, Japan’s Nikkei 225 index rose 1 percent, Hong Kong’s Hang Seng rose 1.2 percent and the Kospi in South Korea gained 0.4 percent.

The dollar ticked up to 114.26 Japanese yen from 114.22 yen late Tuesday. The euro rose to $1.0591 from $1.0572, and the British pound dipped to $1.2445 from $1.2465.

Benchmark U.S. crude fell 9 cents to settle at $53.11 a barrel. Brent crude, the international standard, fell 22 cents to $55.75 a barrel in London. Natural gas rose 2 cents to $2.93 per 1,000 cubic feet, heating oil fell a fraction of a penny to $1.63 per gallon and wholesale gasoline was virtually flat at $1.55 per gallon.

Gold rose $7.70 to $1,233.10 per ounce, silver rose 7 cents to $17.96 per ounce and copper was virtually flat at $2.74 per pound.


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