U.S. stocks rose on Thursday, with the S&P 500 and Nasdaq Composite hitting new highs, helped by gains in the consumer discretionary sector after strong reports from Best Buy and other retailers. The discretionary index was up 1.2 percent, while the S&P 500 retail index was up 1.9 percent, on track for its best day since Nov. 7. Best Buy jumped more than 22 percent, hitting a record high and making it the top gainer on the S&P, after its comparable sales unexpectedly rose last quarter. Tommy Hilfiger owner PVH was the second-biggest S&P gainer with a 5.4-percent jump to a near 6-month high on strong results. Sears was up about 10 percent after posting its first quarterly profit in nearly two years. The reports follow mixed results this reporting period from other retailers, some of which continue to be hurt by competition from Amazon.com.
But they helped to put major indexes on track for a sixth straight day of gains, continuing their rebound from last week’s selloff. The S&P 500 is up 2.5 percent since last Wednesday’s fall. “There’s no clear and present danger on the horizon,” said Jimmy Chang, chief investment strategist at Rockefeller & Co in New York. “The lack of fear, the complacency is supporting the market. At the same time, the Fed (minutes) yesterday is really nothing new. The Fed has done a very good job of communicating its plans to the market, so it’s been managing expectations fairly well.”
But, he said, given high valuations, further upside may be difficult for the market without progress on tax reform in Washington. The Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 78.86 points, or 0.38 percent, to 21,091.28, the S&P 500 had gained 12.42 points, or 0.52 percent, to 2,416.81 and the Nasdaq Composite had added 53.18 points, or 0.86 percent, to 6,216.21.
Minutes of the Federal Reserve’s latest meeting, released on Wednesday afternoon, showed that while policymakers backed a rate hike, they also agreed to hold off until it was clear a recent slowdown in the economy was temporary.
Fed officials also proposed a plan to wind down its $4.5 trillion of debt securities, including a limit on how much would be allowed to fall off the balance sheet each month. Analysts also said the S&P 500 being able to break through and stay above the 2,400 level for the third straight session has also provided technical support.
Limiting gains, the S&P energy index was down 1.9 percent following a drop in crude oil prices. OPEC agreed to extend output cuts, but not by as much as investors had hoped for. Advancing issues outnumbered declining ones on the NYSE by a 1.07-to-1 ratio; on Nasdaq, a 1.11-to-1 ratio favored advancers. The S&P 500 posted 89 new 52-week highs and 11 new lows; the Nasdaq Composite recorded 127 new highs and 58 new lows.