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Saturday August 8th, 2020 1:45PM

US stocks extend gains as investors focus on latest earnings

By The Associated Press
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Major U.S. stock indexes closed mostly higher Tuesday, led by health care companies, retailers and banks.

The modest gains nudged the S&P 500 and Nasdaq to all-time highs for the second straight day. The Dow Jones Industrial Average finished essentially flat.

Investors weighed another batch of mostly solid company earnings reports. Sprint soared after a federal judge cleared a major obstacle to the company being acquired by T-Mobile. Microsoft and Facebook slumped after federal regulators announced they've ramped up an antitrust probe into the two companies as well as Amazon, Apple and Google parent Alphabet.

Cruise operators, hotels and other companies that focus on travel made solid gains, the latest sign that traders are feeling less worried about the economic impact from the virus outbreak that began in China.

“Stocks are collectively saying, ‘hey, maybe we can work past some of the noise with the virus; maybe the fallout won’t be as big as we thought," said Willie Delwiche, investment strategist at Baird. “And the U.S. economy, so far at least, looks like it's weathering it pretty well.”

The S&P 500 index rose 5.66 points, or 0.2%, to 3,357.75. The Dow Jones Industrial Average slipped 0.48 points, or less than 0.1%, to 29,276.34. It had been up 0.5%.

The Nasdaq composite gained 10.55 points, or 0.1%, to 9,638.94. The Russell 2000 index of smaller company stocks picked up 9.85 points, or 0.6%, to 1,677.51.

Markets in Europe and Asia rose.

Bond prices fell, sending bond yields higher. The 10-year Treasury yield rose to 1.60% from 1.54% late Monday.

After a downbeat January, U.S. stocks have been mostly notching gains this month as traders brush off fears about the virus outbreak and its impact on businesses and the global economy. Beijing has promised to take measures to soften the blow to China’s economy and investors are hopeful that other governments will do the same if necessary.

China remained mostly closed for business Tuesday as the daily death toll from a new virus topped 100 for the first time, pushing the total deaths above 1,000. The outbreak has infected more than 43,000 people globally, though most of the cases and deaths are in China.

Travel-related stocks, which have been hammered by traders in recent weeks, notched gains Tuesday. Hilton Worldwide rose 1.4%, Carnival climbed 2.8% and American Airlines gained 3.6%.

Wall Street got some encouragement Tuesday from Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell. In his semiannual monetary report to Congress, Powell said it was too early to assess the threat the virus poses to the U.S. economy, but he noted that the economy “is in a very good place” with strong job creation and moderate growth.

Traders welcomed a federal judge’s decision to reject claims by a group of states arguing T-Mobile’s proposed $26.5 billion buyout of rival Sprint would mean less competition and higher phone bills. Shares in Sprint surged 77.5%, while T-Mobile jumped 11.8%.

Meanwhile, the Federal Trade Commission said Tuesday it has ordered Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Microsoft and Google's parent Alphabet to turn over detailed information on their acquisitions going back to 2010 as part of an investigation into the five giant tech companies' market dominance.

The FTC, the Justice Department and a House committee have been investigating the conduct of big tech companies and whether they aggressively bought potential rivals to suppress competition. Some critics have pointed to Facebook's acquisition of Instagram and WhatsApp, for example, as deals that should be questioned.

Microsoft slid 2.3%, Facebook fell 2.8% and Apple dropped 0.6%. Amazon rose 0.8%, while Alphabet inched up 0.1%.

Investors also assessed the latest batch of company earnings reports Tuesday.

AutoNation climbed 6.3% after the car dealership’s latest quarterly results topped Wall Street’s forecasts, aided by higher demand for used cars.

Cloud-based phone system provider RingCentral also posted surprisingly good earnings and issued a solid forecast. The stock rose 6.8%.

Strong fourth-quarter results also gave shares in Brighthouse Financial a boost. Shares in the annuity and life insurance company, which announced a $500 million share buyback program, jumped 10.7%.

Results from other companies failed to impress traders.

Goodyear Tire & Rubber slumped 12.4% after the tire maker's fourth-quarter earnings and revenue fell short of Wall Street forecasts.

Under Armour plunged 18.9% after the athletic gear company said it may need to restructure this year, which may involve scuttling the opening of its New York City flagship store. The company also gave investors a weak profit forecast for the year and said the virus outbreak in China will drag first-quarter sales down by $50 million to $60 million.

Benchmark crude oil rose 37 cents to settle at $49.94 a barrel. Brent crude oil, the international standard, gained 74 cents to close at $54.01 a barrel. Wholesale gasoline fell 1 cent to $1.51 per gallon. Heating oil climbed 2 cents to $1.63 per gallon. Natural gas rose 2 cents to $1.79 per 1,000 cubic feet.

Gold fell $9.10 to $1,565.60 per ounce, silver fell 19 cents to $17.57 per ounce and copper rose 3 cents to $2.59 per pound.

The dollar rose to 109.76 Japanese yen from 109.70 yen on Monday. The euro strengthened to $1.0922 from $1.0914.

___

AP Business Writer Damian J. Troise contributed.

  • Associated Categories: Associated Press (AP), AP Business, AP Business - Corporate News, AP Business - Economy, AP Business - Financial Markets
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