U.S. stocks rose Monday to kick off a week where Wall Street’s most influential stocks may show whether the huge expectations built up for them are justified.
The S&P 500 gained 36.96 points, or 0.8%, to set another record at 4,927.93. The Dow Jones Industrial Average climbed 224.02, or 0.6%, to 38,333.45, and the Nasdaq composite jumped 172.68, or 1.1%, to 15,628.04.
Big Tech stocks are the main reason the S&P 500 has soared more than 35% to a record since two autumns ago. A small handful of seven has been responsible for the majority of the index’s returns over that time, propelled by a furor around artificial-intelligence technology and expectations for continued dominance.
Five members of that group, nicknamed “the Magnificent Seven,” will report their latest quarterly profits this upcoming week: Apple, Alphabet, Amazon, Meta Platforms and Microsoft.
Because they’re so much more massive in size than almost every other stock, their movements pack much more weight on the S&P 500 and other indexes. They’ll need to meet analysts’ expectations for growth to justify their huge recent moves.
And that’s not all that’s coming this week.
On Wednesday, the Federal Reserve will make its latest decision on what to do with interest rates. Traders expect it to make no move, but the hope is that it may cut interest rates at its next meeting in March. That would mark the first downward move since the Fed began dramatically raising interest rates two years ago to get inflation under control.
Goldman Sachs economist David Mericle expects the Fed “to aim to keep a March cut on the table.” It could do that by dropping the “for some time” qualifier it used in the minutes for its last meeting in describing how long it expects to keep rates high.
A wave of encouraging data has Wall Street believing its dream scenario can come true: The Fed will successfully conquer high inflation and deliver the cuts to rates that investors crave, while the economy skirts through without falling into a recession that seemed inevitable last year.
On Friday, an economic report could bolster or weaken beliefs in that dream. The government will release the latest monthly update on the job market, and economists expect it to show continued growth in hiring, but at a cooler pace. That’s exactly what the Fed would want to see because too much growth could mean upward pressure on inflation.
Treasury yields sank in the bond market ahead of the Fed’s meeting, and after the U.S. Treasury Department said it may not borrow as much as it earlier expected in the January-through-March quarter. The yield on the 10-year Treasury fell to 4.07% from 4.14% late Friday, easing the pressure on the stock market.
This profit reporting season is expected to be lackluster, with analysts forecasting a fourth drop in earnings per share for S&P 500 companies in the last five quarters. But it would be even worse without the Magnificent Seven.
Facebook’s parent company, Meta Platforms, is expected to be the single biggest contributor to growth for the overall S&P 500, according to FactSet. Nvidia is close behind, followed by Microsoft, Apple, Alphabet and Amazon.
Companies so far this reporting season have not been getting as big a boost to their stock price as usual after topping analysts’ forecasts.
Franklin Resources, an investment manager, slipped 0.3% even though it reported stronger profit and revenue for the latest quarter than analysts expected.
SoFi Technologies did better, and its stock jumped 20.2% after the financial services company reported stronger results for the last three months of 2023 than analysts expected. Its forecast for profit this upcoming year also topped analysts’ estimates.
Archer Daniels Midland jumped 5.6% for the biggest gain in the S&P 500 to recover some of its sharp loss from last week, after it put its chief financial officer on leave and said it’s investigating some of its accounting practices. In a message to employees on Friday, ADM CEO Juan Luciano said that “these sales do not materially affect our overall results.”
On the losing side of Wall Street, iRobot fell 8.8% after agreeing to call off its purchase by Amazon following scrutiny from antitrust regulators.
Monday kicked off with a Hong Kong court’s decision to order the liquidation of China Evergrande, the world’s most indebted property developer. Chinese markets were mixed following the ruling, with stocks rising in Hong Kong and falling in Shanghai.
Chinese authorities also made moves to make it more difficult for some investors to “short” Chinese stocks, or bet that their prices will fall. China’s stock markets have been among the world’s worst so far this year amid worries about not only its trouble property industry but also its weak economic recovery.
AP Writers Matt Ott and Zimo Zhong contributed.