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S&P 500, Nasdaq close at fresh records on AI boost, easing yields

March 1, 2024 6:26 AM EST

FILE PHOTO: Traders work on the floor at the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York City, U.S., February 29, 2024. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid/File Photo

By Chuck Mikolajczak

NEW YORK (Reuters) -U.S. stocks rose on Friday, with the S&P 500 and Nasdaq closing at record highs, as technology stocks rallied on continued enthusiasm for artificial intelligence, with further support from declining Treasury yields.

The gains marked the second straight closing record for the Nasdaq, which also set an intraday record as AI-related names such as Nvidia and Meta Platforms led it past its prior peak of 16,212.23 set in November 2021.

Through the end of February, the three major indexes notched their fourth straight month of gains in a rally largely fueled by growth prospects related to AI, which has also lifted semiconductor names.

On Friday, shares of Nvidia climbed 4% and closed above $2 trillion in market value for the first time. Rival Advanced Micro Devices shares gained 5.25% to a record high close of $202.64, while the broader Philadelphia semiconductor index also closed at a record after a jump of 4.29% on the session.

Markets have drawn support from a resilient economy, as investors have tried to gauge the timing of the first interest rate cut by the Federal Reserve, with investors currently targeting June and growing expectations the central bank can engineer a soft landing for the economy.

"Because the economy is doing well and because inflation remains a bit sticky, the Fed will be slower to lower interest rates," said Sam Stovall, chief investment strategist at CFRA Research in New York.

"But that's good because then we're gradually coming off of the higher interest rate cycle and we're not in need of cutting rates aggressively."

The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 90.99 points, or 0.23% , to 39,087.38, the S&P 500 gained 40.81 points, or 0.80%, to 5,137.08 and the Nasdaq Composite gained 183.02 points, or 1.14%, to 16,274.94.

For the week, the S&P 500 gained 0.95%, the Nasdaq rose 1.74%, and the Dow fell 0.11%.

Despite a strong services sector and tight labor market, the economy still shows pockets of weakness, notably in manufacturing, although data on Friday included some signs of a possible rebound.

That helped push U.S. Treasury yields lower, with the two-year note yield falling to as low as 4.519%.

Fed Governor Chris Waller said upcoming decisions about the ultimate size of its balance sheet have no bearing on its inflation fight.

Fellow Fed Governor Adriana Kugler said she is cautiously optimistic progress will continue on disinflation without a significant weakening of the labor market, and that the central bank has avoided a wage-price spiral. Richmond Fed President Thomas Barkin said it is too soon to predict when the Fed will be able to begin cutting rates.

The S&P 500 tech index <.SPLRCT> was the top performer of the 11 major sectors, gaining 1.78%, while utilities were weakest, showing a decline of 0.72%.

Among major movers, New York Community Bancorp tumbled 25.89% after the regional lender said it had found "material weaknesses" in internal controls related to its loan review and revised its fourth-quarter loss to 10 times above the previously stated numbers, which helped send the KBW regional banking index 1.27% lower.

Dell Technologies surged 31.62%, its biggest daily percentage gain ever, after the personal computer maker forecast annual revenue and profit above Wall Street estimates.

Gains on the Dow were curbed in part by a 1.83% fall in Boeing after a report said the planemaker was in talks to buy supplier Spirit AeroSystems.

Advancing issues outnumbered decliners by a 2.29-to-1 ratio on the NYSE and by a 1.55-to-1 ratio on the Nasdaq.

The S&P 500 posted 87 new 52-week highs and 2 new lows while the Nasdaq recorded 363 new highs and 88 new lows.

(Reporting by Chuck MikolajczakEditing by Chris Reese and David Gregorio)



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