(Reuters) – U.S. stocks ticked higher on Thursday, after the European Central Bank signaled that any interest rate hike was still far away, even as it moved to end its 2.55 trillion euro stimulus program by the end of the year.
The ECB’s statement came as a relief, especially after the Federal Reserve raised rates for the second time this year on Wednesday and hinted at two more hikes by the end of 2018.
Technology stocks were the biggest gainers, with Facebook and Alphabet leading the pack, while bank shares took a hit and weighed on the benchmark S&P 500.
“The Fed rate increases, the ECB’s decision to end its bond buying program, it suggests higher rates down the road,” said Rick Meckler, partner, Cherry Lane Investments in New Vernon, New Jersey.
“For the most part it’s a positive because they feel the economy is strong enough to handle that.”
U.S. retail sales rose more than expected in May to post its biggest advance since November 2017, while another report showed number of Americans on jobless rolls fell to a near 44-1/2-year low.
Meckler said reaction was mixed to the policy announcements, as markets were split between “those that think the economy is very strong and those who are concerned about inflation.”
At 12:55 p.m. ET, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was down 26.64 points, or 0.11 percent, at 25,174.56, the S&P 500 was up 5.66 points, or 0.20 percent, at 2,781.29 and the Nasdaq Composite was up 56.87 points, or 0.74 percent, at 7,752.57.
J.P Morgan Chase’s 1.9 percent fall was the biggest drag on the S&P 500. The financial index was down 0.96 percent, the biggest loser among the major S&P sectors.
“You have the yield curve continuing to flatten, which is not great for financial stocks,” said Michael Antonelli, managing director, institutional sales trading at Robert W. Baird in Milwaukee.
The yield spread between U.S. 30-year bonds and U.S. 5-year notes narrowed to the flattest level since January 2012 after the Fed decision on Wednesday.
Comcast jumped 3.9 percent after the company offered Twenty-First Century Fox $65 billion to lure it away from a merger with Walt Disney.
Disney also rose 1.9 percent and Fox was up 1.9 percent.
Advancing issues outnumbered decliners for a 1.32-to-1 ratio on the NYSE and for a 1.14-to-1 ratio on the Nasdaq.
The S&P index recorded 30 new 52-week highs and one new low, while the Nasdaq recorded 133 new highs and 20 new lows.
Reporting by Sruthi Shankar in Bengaluru; Editing by Anil D’Silva
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