July 19, 2023 -NEW YORK (AP) — Wall Street closed modestly higher following profit reports from a spate of banks and other big U.S. companies. The S&P 500 rose 0.2% Wednesday after its seventh gain in the last eight days. The Dow added 109 points, or 0.3%, and the Nasdaq edged up less than 0.1%. Elevance Health helped lead the market after it reported stronger profit and revenue for the spring than analysts expected. Several banks also rallied after reporting a rise in customer deposits. The S&P 500 is up nearly 19% for the year so far and at its highest level in more than 15 months.
The S&P 500 was 0.2% higher in afternoon trading, coming off its highest closing level since early April 2022. The Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 150 points, or 0.4%, at 35,102, as of 2:38 p.m. Eastern time, and the Nasdaq composite was 0.1% lower.
Elevance Health was helping to lead the market after it climbed 5.2% The insurance provider reported stronger profit and revenue for the spring than analysts expected, while raising its forecast for earnings over the full year.
Stocks also broadly got a boost from easing pressure from the bond market. Yields there were holding steady or falling after a report showed U.K. inflation cooled by more than expected. It eased to 7.9% in June, a 15-month low.
The U.K. data follows encouraging U.S. reports that have raised hope inflation is moderating enough to convince the Federal Reserve to halt its hikes to interest rates soon. That could help the economy avoid a long-predicted recession.
The pressure caused by high rates has already helped cause the collapse of several U.S. banks, which saw customers suddenly flee in flocks. Other smaller and midsized banks have since been under heavy scrutiny by investors, and they’re beginning to report their results for the spring.
Western Alliance Bancorp bounced from an early loss to a gain of 7% after reporting weaker profit for the latest quarter than analysts expected. It also said customers added $3.5 billion in deposits from April through June.
U.S. Bancorp rose 5.8% after reporting weaker profit than expected but slightly stronger revenue. It also said its deposits grew 3.2% from the start of the year. M&T Bank gained 2.6% after reporting stronger profit than expected and higher deposits. Investment bank Goldman Sachs added 1.7% after it fell short of profit expectations for the latest quarter but topped forecasts for revenue.
One of Wall Street’s biggest winners was Carvana, which jumped 32.2%. The used-car dealer agreed with its lenders to reduce its debt by more than $1.2 billion. It also reported a milder net loss for the latest quarter than analysts expected.
The earnings reporting season is picking up momentum in its second week, and expectations are broadly low. Analysts are forecasting a third straight quarter of drops in earnings per share for S&P 500 companies, but that low bar also makes it easier for companies to top expectations.
Trucking company J.B. Hunt Transport Services reported a drop in earnings per share for the latest quarter that was worse than analysts expected. But its stock nevertheless rose 2.7%. Analysts pointed to the company’s highlighting some encouraging trends, with a possible return to growth appearing closer on the horizon.
On the losing side of Wall Street was Omnicom Group. The marketing and communications company fell 11.7% after investors focused on its falling short of analysts’ expectations for revenue growth during the spring.
“Probably the best way to sum up this market at the moment is, ‘can’t stop, won’t stop,’” said JJ Kinahan, CEO of IG North America.
The S&P 500 has already soared nearly 19% so far this year as the economy has managed to power through high interest rates, mostly thanks to a remarkably solid job market. Early in the year, much of the market’s gains came from just a small handful of Big Tech stocks, but the gains have broadened out a bit recently as the economy has held up and inflation has cooled more.
Wheat prices surged 8.5% as Russia launched drone and missile attacks on critical port infrastructure in Ukraine, destroying 60,000 tons of grain. The attacks come days after Russia pulled out of the Black Sea Grain Initiative, which allowed exports from Ukraine to reach many countries facing the threat of hunger.
In stock markets abroad, the FTSE 100 in London jumped 1.8% following the encouraging inflation data there.
Stocks were mixed elsewhere in Europe and across Asia. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng fell 0.3%, partly due to selling of property shares after troubled developer China Evergrande reported its total debts rose in the past two years to about $340 billion.
In the bond market, the yield on the 10-year Treasury slipped to 3.75% from 3.79% late Tuesday. It helps set rates for mortgages and other important loans.