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Wall Street waltzes past its latest milestone as S&P 500 closes above 5,000

A street sign for Wall Street outside the New York Stock Exchange in New York.
The Standard & Poor’s 500 rose 0.6% and finished above 5,000 for the first time.
(Associated Press)
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More gains for U.S. stocks on Friday sent Wall Street to its latest record, milestone and winning week.

The Standard & Poor’s 500 rose 0.6% and finished above 5,000 for the first time. It’s the 10th record in less than a month for the index, which closed its 14th winning week in the last 15 to continue a romp that began around Halloween.

The Nasdaq composite jumped 1.2% to pull within 0.4% of its own all-time high, which was set in 2021. The Dow Jones industrial average was a laggard a day after setting its own latest record. It slipped 0.1%.

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Milestones such as the S&P 500 at 5,000 don’t carry much weight for a market that’s supposed to move on hard numbers including interest rates, profits and revenue. But they can juice up the animal spirits of a market that can also be prone to emotional moves.

Wall Street’s rally got going with hopes that cooling inflation would get the Federal Reserve to dial down the pressure by cutting interest rates. Lately, such cuts look to be coming later than hoped because reports keep showing a remarkably solid economy. But that strength has in turn raised expectations for profits from companies, supporting stocks.

Cloudflare was the latest company to soar after reporting stronger profit than analysts expected for its latest quarter. The cloud-services company jumped 19.5% after it said it signed both its largest new customer and its largest renewal ever, despite an overall economic environment that “remains challenging to predict.”

Big Tech stocks did most of the market’s heavy lifting, as they’ve been doing for more than a year, in part on mania around artificial-intelligence technology. Nvidia, Amazon and Microsoft were the three strongest forces lifting the S&P 500 after they rose 3.6%, 2.7% and 1.6%, respectively.

They helped offset a 3.6% drop for PepsiCo, which reported weaker revenue for the latest quarter than analysts expected. It said growth is slowing because customers are getting back to their snacking and other behaviors from before the pandemic.

Expedia tumbled 17.8% despite also reporting stronger profit than expected. The company gave forecasts for the first three months of 2024 that analysts said pointed to slower growth in bookings. The company also announced a new chief executive, Ariane Gorin, will take over in May.

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Take-Two Interactive, the publisher of “Grand Theft Auto” and other video games, sank 8.7% after it reported weaker profit than expected. It also cut its forecast for results for its fiscal year, which ends March 31.

All told, the S&P 500 rose 28.70 points to 5,026.61. The Dow slipped 54.64 points to 38,671.69, and the Nasdaq gained 196.95 points to close at 15,990.66.

Profits have largely been coming in better than expected for the big companies in the S&P 500 this reporting season, which is roughly two-thirds finished. That’s usually the case, but even more companies than usual are doing so this time around, according to FactSet.

That has boosted optimism on Wall Street, but contrarians say it may have gone too far and carried stocks to too-expensive heights.

Traders are flowing into some riskier investments at a quick enough pace that a contrarian measure kept by Bank of America is leaning more toward “sell” now than “buy,” though it’s not at convincing levels. The measure tracks how much fear and greed are in the market, and it suggested buying in October when fear was at a convincing high.

In the bond market, Treasury yields inched higher. The yield on the 10-year Treasury rose to 4.16% from 4.15% late Thursday.

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But the movements were much calmer than earlier in the month, when the 10-year yield leaped from 3.85% as traders forcefully pushed out their forecasts for rate cuts.

It’s an encouraging signal that the stock market can keep hitting highs when expectations are dimming for an imminent cut to interest rates, particularly after the market earlier seemed to be moving solely on such forecasts.

“A less emotional market is a positive sign, though investors must fight against the complacency that is a natural reaction to such a strong and steady bull run,” said Mark Hackett, Nationwide’s chief of investment research.

In stock markets abroad, indexes were mostly modestly lower. In Asia, several markets were closed for the Lunar New Year holiday.

Tokyo’s Nikkei 225 edged up by 0.1% after touching a 34-year high earlier in the day.

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