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Financial Markets                      02/26 15:31

   

   NEW YORK (AP) -- U.S. stocks edged back from record levels Monday as they 
head for the final stretch of what looks to be their latest winning month.

   The S&P 500 slipped 19.27 points, or 0.4%, to 5,069.53 after closing last 
week at an all-time high. The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 62.30, or 0.2%, 
to 39,069.23, and the Nasdaq composite dipped 20.57, or 0.1%, to 15,976.25.

   Berkshire Hathaway was one of the heaviest weights on the market, even 
though Warren Buffett's company reported stronger results for the end of 2023 
than analysts expected. Class-B shares of the company, whose subsidiaries 
include GEICO, Fruit of the Loom and Brooks running shoes, initially jumped 
more than 3% but later fell back to a loss of 1.9%.

   The famed investor warned shareholders not to expect any more "eye-popping 
performance" because there are no bargains available in the market of big 
enough size to make a meaningful difference. Buffett is notorious for buying 
companies when they're cheap.

   That follows broader criticism from some financial analysts that prices all 
over Wall Street have soared too high in its big run since Halloween.

   The S&P 500 is on track to close out its fourth straight winning month and 
is coming off its 15th winning week in the last 17. And the stock market may 
not have been cheap even when it bottomed out in October 2022. That marked the 
priciest bear-market low in history, according to some measures of stock prices 
against corporate earnings, says Doug Ramsey, chief investment officer of 
Leuthold.

   This recent rally got going last October amid hopes that inflation is 
cooling enough for the Federal Reserve to cut interest rates several times this 
year. Such cuts would relax the pressure on the economy and financial system, 
while goosing investment prices.

   Expectations are still high for rate cuts to come eventually this year, but 
traders have been delaying their forecasts following some 
stronger-than-expected reports on the economy. That data in the meantime raises 
hopes that growth in profits for companies can strengthen, which helps stock 
prices too.

   Domino's Pizza jumped 5.8% for one of the biggest gains in the S&P 500 after 
it reported profit for the last three months of 2023 that topped analysts' 
expectations.

   Amazon's stock slipped 0.1% in its first day as a member of the Dow Jones 
Industrial Average. It replaced Walgreens Boots Alliance, which fell 3.4%.

   Homebuilder stocks were mixed after a report showed sales of new homes 
strengthened last month by less than economists expected. Toll Brothers gained 
1.1%, and Lennar fell 0.6%.

   Intuitive Machines lost more than a third of its value after the company 
said its lunar lander may stop working Tuesday after it landed sideways near 
the south pole of the moon. The 34.6% drop, though, only trims what's been a 
moonshot for its stock so far this year. It's still up 145.4% since the end of 
2023.

   Last week, stocks got a big boost after another blowout report from Nvidia 
added more chum to the frenzy that's already built around 
artificial-intelligence technology. Nvidia, whose chips help power AI 
technologies, rose another 0.3% Monday, and it's already up nearly 60% so far 
this year.

   Earnings reporting season for the big companies in the S&P 500 is in its 
tail end, but this week still offers updates from several big names. They 
include several that could give color on how well spending by U.S. households 
is holding up. Such spending has been one of the main reasons the U.S. economy 
has blasted through expectations for a possible recession.

   Best Buy, Lowe's and TJX, the parent company of T.J. Maxx and Marshalls, 
will all report this week. So will several big tech-related companies, 
including Salesforce.com and HP.

   On the economic calendar, the U.S. government on Thursday will give the 
latest update on the measure of inflation that the Federal Reserve prefers to 
use. It's usually a less impactful report, because data on inflation at the 
consumer and wholesale levels for the month have already been released.

   But those reports came in hotter than economists expected, which could lead 
to more volatility this time around. The hope on Wall Street is that inflation 
will continue to cool fast enough to convince the Federal Reserve to begin 
cutting rates by June.

   Treasury yields ticked higher in the bond market. The yield on the 10-year 
Treasury rose to 4.27% from 4.25% late Friday.

   In stock markets abroad, indexes were mixed. Japan's Nikkei 225 added 0.3% 
to set another record after recouping the last of the losses suffered in the 
bursting of its "bubble" economy at the end of 1989.

   Stocks were lower across much of the rest of Asia and mixed in much of 
Europe.

   ___

   AP Business Writers Yuri Kageyama and Matt Ott contributed.

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