Stock market today: Wall Street is closing its latest winning month with a quiet finish
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BANGKOK – Wall Street’s latest winning month is heading toward a quiet finish as U.S. stocks drift around their record heights.

The S&P 500 rose 0.3% in afternoon trading, continuing its run of modest moves since hitting an all-time high last week. The Dow Jones Industrial Average was down 45 points, or 0.1%, as of 2:29 p.m. Eastern time. The Nasdaq composite was 0.5% higher and is just below its record set in 2021.

In the bond market, yields were easing after a closely followed inflation report showed prices across the country rose pretty much as expected last month. That calmed worries on Wall Street that the inflation data would show a discomforting reacceleration. Earlier reports had shown prices rose more than expected in January at the consumer and wholesale levels.

“While inflation was hotter than it’s been in a while, it may be more of a flash in the pan than the start of something worse,” said Brian Jacobsen, chief economist at Annex Wealth Management.

Wednesday’s report kept intact hopes that the Federal Reserve may begin cutting interest rates in June. Such a move would relax the pressure on the economy and boost investment prices, and the Fed has already indicated several cuts may be coming this year.

The Fed’s main interest rate is sitting at its highest level since 2001 in hopes of grinding down inflation by dragging on the economy through more expensive mortgage and credit-card payments.

Relief on rates, though, would come only if the Fed sees more convincing data that inflation is sustainably heading down toward its target of 2%. Hopes for coming cuts to rates helped launch the U.S. stock market’s big rally in late October, and the S&P 500 is on the verge of closing out its fourth straight winning month.

More recently, traders have been pushing back forecasts for when the Fed may begin cutting rates. A series of reports showing the economy remains stronger than expected have pushed expectations out from March. On Thursday, another report showed fewer U.S. workers filed for unemployment benefits last week than economists expected. It’s the latest signal of a remarkably resilient job market.

In the meantime, the hope is that solid economy will fuel growth in profits for U.S. companies, even if it means a delay to rate cuts.

Salesforce.com became one of the latest companies to report better profit for the latest quarter than analysts expected on Wednesday evening. The customer-resource management software company also said it plans to begin paying a quarterly dividend to its investors, but it gave a forecast for revenue this upcoming year that was a bit below analysts’ expectations. Its stock was 2.3% higher after flipping an earlier loss.

Best Buy gained 1.3% after it reported better profit and revenue than expected. The retailer also said it’s increasing its dividend and that its paid membership base is growing.

Hormel Foods likewise reported stronger profit and revenue than expected. It cited broad-based growth across its brands, including Skippy peanut better, Chi-Chi’s salsa and Corn Nuts snacks. Its stock leaped 13.2%.

They helped offset a 4.5% drop for Bath & Body Works. The seller of fragrances, body lotion and three-wick candles reported better profit than expected, helped by a strong holiday season, but it said sales may weaken this upcoming year.

Even though it nearly doubled analysts’ fourth-quarter profit projections, the cloud-computing company Snowflake tumbled 18.6% after a surprise announcement that CEO Frank Slootman was retiring effective immediately. Slootman will be replaced by Sridhar Ramaswamy.

Chemours tumbled 34.9% after it put three top executives, including its CEO, on administrative leave while the audit committee of its board conducts a review. The company said it needs more time to complete its year-end reporting process, and it delayed the release of its quarterly results, which was earlier planned for Wednesday.

In the bond market, the yield on the 10-year Treasury fell to 4.24% from 4.27% late Wednesday.

The two-year yield, which more closely tracks expectations for the Fed, dipped to 4.62% from 4.65%. It had been near 4.70% shortly before the morning’s release of the inflation data.

In stock markets abroad, indexes were mixed.

Tokyo’s Nikkei 225 dipped 0.1% after data showed factory output falling in January at the fastest pace since May 2020, though retail sales were stronger than expected.

Hong Kong’s Hang Seng slipped 0.2%, while stocks in Shanghai jumped 1.9%. The smaller index in Shenzhen surged even more after regulators released new measures to support markets including closer oversight of financial derivatives.

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AP Business Writers Matt Ott and Elaine Kurtenbach contributed.

Copyright 2024 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.

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