Tech stocks propel S&P 500, Nasdaq to fresh highs


U.S. stocks continued their momentum on Tuesday, with all three major indexes up in early afternoon. The S&P 500 and Nasdaq both hit record highs, lifted by shares of heavyweight technology firms and by Morgan Stanley (MS.N), while an upbeat consumer confidence report set a positive tone for key jobs data at the end of the week.

U.S. consumer confidence increased in June to its highest level since the COVID-19 pandemic started more than a year ago, bolstering expectations for strong economic growth in the second quarter.

Market participants are closely watching the nonfarm payroll report due on Friday, which could sway the U.S. Federal Reserve’s policy stance which hinges on an equitable recovery of the labor market.

“The economy is booming, the stock market is climbing so it makes perfect sense to me that consumer confidence numbers are through the roof,” said Mike Zigmont, head of trading and research at Harvest Volatility Management in New York.

“If there’s a strong nonfarm payrolls number this month and we start making progress on the unemployment rate, that changes the whole Fed narrative.”

The S&P 500 was at a record-high level for the fourth straight session on Tuesday, with four of the 11 major S&P sectors up. Technology (.SPLRCT) and consumer discretionary (.SPLRCD) stocks were among the top gainers.

“We looked at valuation on both the growth and value side, versus just momentum, because the momentum is a little bit stalled for both sides. It’s more of a stock pickers’ market,” said Jay Hatfield, CEO of Infrastructure Capital Advisors.

The largest percentage gainer on the S&P 500 was semiconductor company Qorvo Inc , which rose 4.6% to a record high.

Morgan Stanley (MS.N) jumped 3.5% after it doubled its dividend to 70 cents per share in the third quarter. JPMorgan Chase & Co (JPM.N), Bank of America Corp (BAC.N) and Goldman Sachs Group (GS.N) also raised their payouts.

All three major Wall Street indexes are set for their fifth straight quarter of gains, boosted by ultra-loose monetary policy, a rebounding U.S. economy and robust corporate earnings.

With the S&P 500 climbing nearly 14% in the first half of the year, focus will shift to the second-quarter earnings season, beginning in July, which could decide the path for the next leg of the equity markets.

At 2 p.m. EDT, the Dow Jones Industrial Average (.DJI) was up 37.26 points, or 0.11%, at 34,320.53, the S&P 500 (.SPX) gained 3.2 points, or 0.07%, to 4,293.81 and the Nasdaq Composite (.IXIC) added 27.68 points, or 0.19%, to 14,528.19.

Moderna Inc (MRNA.O) jumped 6.0% to a record high after the drugmaker’s COVID-19 vaccine showed promise against the Delta variant first identified in India in a lab study, with a modest decrease in response compared with the original strain.

Textron Inc (TXT.N) rose 1.1% after Morgan Stanley upgraded the business jet maker’s stock to “overweight” from “equal weight” on hopes of a stronger recovery.

Declining issues outnumbered advancing ones on the NYSE by a 1.09-to-1 ratio; on Nasdaq, a 1.37-to-1 ratio favored decliners.

The S&P 500 posted 36 new 52-week highs and no new lows; the Nasdaq Composite recorded 85 new highs and 31 new lows.