S&P 500, Nasdaq hit record highs on boost from tech, oil stocks

(Reuters) – The S&P 500 and Nasdaq hit record highs on Thursday on gains in heavyweight technology and energy companies, as well as hopes that the Federal Reserve will maintain an accommodative policy amid signs that an economic recovery was slowing.

FILE PHOTO: People are seen on Wall Street outside the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York City, U.S., March 19, 2021. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid/File Photo

The energy sector rose 3.1%, with oil majors Exxon Mobil, Chevron Corp, Schlumberger NV and Occidental Petroleum gaining between 2.6% and 7.0% as crude prices jumped on a sharp decline in U.S. inventories and a weaker dollar. [O/R]

Netflix Inc rose 2.2% to an all-time high, while Apple Inc and Amazon.com Inc added between 0.5% and 0.7%, driving gains on the tech-heavy Nasdaq.

U.S. stocks have regularly hit record highs over the past few weeks as a solid corporate earnings season and hopes of continued central bank support underpinned confidence as data showed the country’s post-pandemic economic growth was beginning to slow.

Data on Thursday showed the number of Americans filing new claims for jobless benefits fell last week, although the focus will be on the Labor Department’s monthly jobs report on Friday to set the stage for the Fed’s policy meeting later this month.

The report is likely to show job growth slowed to 750,000 in August from 943,000 the previous month.

“The market could also look at the Fed tapering as a sign the economy is performing better, which in turn will help support stocks in the long run,” said Bill Northey, senior investment director at U.S. Bank Wealth Management in Minneapolis.

“We position ourselves being overweight on sectors like tech and consumer discretionary instead of sectors that are more prone to cyclical changes.”

At 12:16 p.m. ET, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 145.05 points, or 0.41%, at 35,457.58, the S&P 500 was up 15.21 points, or 0.34%, at 4,539.30, and the Nasdaq Composite was up 45.89 points, or 0.30%, at 15,355.27.

With New York City the subject of its first flash flood warning, trading on Wall Street was operating normally.

Banking stocks gained 1.0%, with Wells Fargo rising 2.9% after three straight sessions of losses.

Contracting services company Quanta Services Inc jumped 10.1% to a record high after saying it would buy privately held Blattner Holding Company in a deal valued at about $2.7 billion.

Medtech firm Baxter International added 4.8% after announcing the acquisition of rival Hill-Rom Holdings Inc for roughly $10.5 billion. Hill-Rom jumped 4.4%.

Advancing issues outnumbered decliners by a 2.22-to-1 ratio on the NYSE and a 2.15-to-1 ratio on the Nasdaq.

The S&P index recorded 74 new 52-week highs and one new low, while the Nasdaq recorded 129 new highs and nine new lows.

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