Sunday, Dec 17, 2017
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Stock Market

Soaring airline stocks help lift Wall Street to new heights

Airline and automaker stocks took off on Tuesday and helped U.S. indexes push a bit further into record territory. Trading was again quiet overall, with only modest moves for bond yields, commodities and other markets.

The Standard & Poor’s 500 index rose 5.46 points, or 0.2 percent, to 2,534.58 for its sixth straight day of gains. The Dow Jones industrial average rose 84.07, or 0.4 percent, to 22,641.67, and the Nasdaq composite rose 15.00 points, or 0.2 percent, to 6,531.71. The Russell 2000 index of small-cap stocks added 2.49, or 0.2 percent, to 1,511.97. All four indexes are at records.

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Airlines led the way after Delta Air Lines updated its forecast for third-quarter results. The Atlanta-based carrier expects to report roughly 2 percent growth in a key revenue measurement, which would be at the high end of the forecast range it had given a month earlier, after accounting for the hit that it took from Hurricane Irma.

Delta jumped $3.18, or 6.6 percent, to $51.25 for its best day since January 2015. United Continental, American Airlines Group and Southwest Airlines also each rose more than 4 percent.

Outside of airlines and a handful of other big movers, though, markets were generally quiet. No big economic reports were on the docket, and few companies reported quarterly results.

“This is the calm before we get hit with some more impactful information,” said Steve Chiavarone, portfolio manager at Federated Investors.

In upcoming weeks, the market will be looking to hear more about whether Washington will be able to cut tax rates for companies and others. Investors may also get clues about who the next chair of the Federal Reserve will be, and most companies will begin reporting their third-quarter results.

In the meantime, some economic reports may look abnormally weak because of the hurricanes that have recently struck the United States, such as this week’s upcoming report on hiring. But investors are expecting to see temporarily weaker numbers, which would limit the impact, Chiavarone said.

General Motors and Ford Motor were some of the market’s top performers after each reported strong U.S. sales growth for last month. It’s a turnaround for automakers, which had seen sales drop across the industry through the year’s first eight months.

GM climbed $1.30, or 3.1 percent, to $43.45, and Ford gained 25 cents, or 2.1 percent, to $12.34.

Homebuilder Lennar rose after it reported stronger quarterly sales and earnings than analysts expected. Interest rates remain relatively low, and the strengthening job market is helping to convince more people to buy homes. Lennar rose $2.53, or 4.8 percent, to $55.35.

Shares of Equifax and Wells Fargo both rose, even though representatives for the companies received tongue lashings on Capitol Hill.

Equifax climbed $2.64, or 2.4 percent, to $110.45 after House members grilled its former CEO over the data hack that exposed the personal information of 145 million Americans. Wells Fargo added 11 cents, or 0.2 percent, to $55.58 after a Senate committee questioned its CEO on the bank’s sales-practice scandal, where employees had signed customers up for accounts without their knowledge.

The yield on the 10-year Treasury note fell to 2.32 percent from 2.34 percent late Monday. The two-year yield fell to 1.46 percent from 1.49 percent, and the 30-year yield dipped to 2.86 percent from 2.87 percent.

The dollar inched up to 112.90 Japanese yen from 112.65 yen late Monday. The euro rose to $1.1752 from $1.1746, and the British pound dipped to $1.3247 from $1.3286.

In overseas markets, France’s CAC 40 rose 0.3 percent, and the FTSE 100 in London gained 0.4 percent. Japan’s benchmark Nikkei 225 rose 1 percent to its highest closing level in two years, and Hong Kong’s Hang Seng jumped 2.2 percent. Stock markets were closed in Germany, China and South Korea for holidays.

In the commodities market, gold slipped $1.20 to settle at $1,274.60 per ounce, silver was close to flat at $16.65 per ounce and copper rose 1 cent to $2.96 per pound.

Benchmark U.S. crude dipped 16 cents to settle at $50.42 per barrel. Brent crude, the standard for international oil prices, fell 12 cents to $56.00 per barrel. Natural gas fell 2 cents to $2.90 per 1,000 cubic feet, heating oil dropped 2 cents to $1.75 per gallon and wholesale gasoline rose a penny to $1.57 per gallon.

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