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While you were sleeping: Wall St renews record highs

Wednesday 22nd November 2017

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Wall Street climbed to fresh record highs as better-than-expected corporate earnings such as from Medtronic bolstered optimism about the outlook for profits.

In 1.29pm trading in New York, the Dow Jones Industrial Average climbed 0.8 percent, while  the Nasdaq Composite Index rallied 1 percent. In 1.14pm trading, the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index gained 0.7 percent.

The S&P 500 reached a record high 2,600.11 earlier in the day, while the Nasdaq touched a new peak of 6,861.07.

Goldman Sachs raised its 2018 target for the S&P 500 to 2,850 from 2,500, citing an expansion in profits and valuations, according to Bloomberg.


“Investors can be reassured by the strength and durability of the current economic cycle,” Peter Oppenheimer, Goldman’s chief global equity strategist, said in a note, Bloomberg reported. “While it has already been a long cycle, the unwinding of the financial crisis has also meant that, until recently, it has been sub-par in terms of strength—as is often the case following financial crises.”

Shares of Medtronic jumped, trading 5.3 percent higher as of 1.27pm in New York, after the medical device maker posted better-than-expected quarterly results. 

"Our second quarter financial results are very encouraging, when considered in the context of a quarter in which we faced three hurricanes and the California wildfires. Hurricane Maria, in particular, significantly affected our manufacturing operations in Puerto Rico," Omar Ishrak, Medtronic’s chief executive officer, said in a statement. "Against this backdrop, we delivered a sequential acceleration in our organic revenue growth, as expected."

The Dow also ascended to a fresh record high, touching 23,617.48, as gains in shares of Apple and those of 3M, recently up 1.8 percent and 1.6 percent respectively, outweighed slides in shares of Wal-Mart Stores and those of Nike, recently down 0.6 percent and 0.1 percent respectively.

“It is a return of momentum for the market, with some of positive earnings and recommendations as catalysts,” Eric Wiegand, senior portfolio manager at US Bank’s Private Client Reserve unit, told Reuters.

Technology stocks “have been in the leadership position for long and have produced remarkable earnings growth,” according to Wiegand. “With the sector also standing to benefit from tax reforms, they will continue to be in a favoured position.”

Bucking the trend, shares of Campbell Soup dropped after the company posted quarterly revenue and earnings that fell short of expectations and downgraded its full-year earnings outlook.

The stock traded 8.9 percent weaker as of 1.32pm in New York.

"This was a difficult quarter, particularly for our US soup business," Denise Morrison, Campbell's chief executive officer, said in a statement. "The operating environment remains volatile with a rapidly evolving retailer landscape and competitive activity pressuring the top line."

"Our bottom line performance was negatively impacted by a lower adjusted gross margin rate due in part to cost inflation, higher carrot costs and escalating transportation and logistics costs following the hurricane season," according to Morrison.

Net and organic sales declined 2 percent in the first quarter, Campbell said, largely because US soup sales slid 9 percent. 

“The sales decline was the result of one key customer's different promotional approach to the soup category for fiscal 2018, as we described last quarter," Morrison noted. 

Campbell said it cut its fiscal 2018 outlook and now expects adjusted earnings of between US$2.95 a share to US$3.02 per share, representing a fall of between 1 and 3 percent from the previous year. 

"We expect the entire food group to trade off today on the back of this earnings release, but we remind investors that the two major problems (a lost promotion at [Wal-Mart Stores], carrots) are [Campbell]-specific,” JP Morgan analyst Ken Goldman said, according to Reuters.

Trying to gauge the outlook for interest rate increases next year, investors will eye a speech by Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen in New York later in the day while minutes of the most recent Federal Open Market Committee meeting will be released on Wednesday. 

In Europe, the Stoxx 600 Index finished the session with a 0.4 percent advance from the previous close.

The UK’s FTSE 100 Index rose 0.3 percent, France’s CAC 40 Index gained 0.5 percent, and Germany’s DAX Index rallied 0.8 percent.


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