S&P 500 rises slightly, heads for sixth straight day of gains

The S&P 500 rose for a sixth day in a row on Thursday as investors took solace in the Federal Reserve’s patient stance on raising interest rates, while stronger-than-expected economic data also boosted sentiment.

The S&P 500 gained 0.3% to a new intraday high. The tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite rose 0.8% to an all-time high. The Dow Jones Industrial Average dipped 90 points from a record as Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan struggled.

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The central bank said it will begin to slow its bond-buying program later this month, signaling that the economy can now handle an unwinding of pandemic stimulus. Investors had long anticipated the move and liked that the Fed did not signal it would be any more aggressive than necessary in raising interest rates once the bond tapering was finished next year.

“The Fed’s tapering announcement removes a minor, but overhanging worry across markets, as investors had been waiting for this moment for months, and it reinforces the view that the economic recovery has a long runway, albeit with a low rate of growth,” said George Ball, chairman of Sanders Morris Harris. It “is a signal of economic strength, which is good for corporate earnings and markets.”

The S&P 500 is up 1.3% for the week, pushing the S&P 500’s year-to-date return up to 24% as the benchmark enters a seasonally strong part of the year for markets.

On the data front, U.S. jobless claims totaled 269,000 for the week ended Oct. 30, the lowest pandemic-era total and better than the 275,000 expected by economists polled by Dow Jones.

October’s hotly anticipated jobs report will be released on Friday. Consensus estimates call for 450,000 jobs added, according to Dow Jones. Nonfarm payrolls increased by 194,000 in September, far short of the 500,000 estimate.

The Cboe Volatility Index, known as the VIX or Wall Street’s fear gauge fell to 14.78 on Thursday, the lowest level since early July.

Qualcomm rallied nearly 13% following an earnings beat propelled by a 56% surge in smartphone chip sales. The company also provide strong guidance for the fourth quarter.

MGM shares gained nearly 2% after the casino operator announcing plans to sell the operations of its Mirage casino in Las Vegas to another operator. The company noted that no sales agreement had been reached and it did not mention any possible buyers.

Yet Moderna shares cratered 16% after the drugmaker slashed its Covid-19 vaccine revenue outlook.

Roku was under pressure, falling more than 4% after the streaming platform reported disappointing third-quarter revenue.

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