Nasdaq scales new peak; Fed caution keeps S&P 500, Dow muted

(Reuters) – Technology stocks nudged the Nasdaq to a record high on Wednesday, while a fall in healthcare shares and caution ahead of the Federal Reserve’s annual symposium kept broader markets subdued.

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Healthcare, consumer staples and utilities – sectors usually considered safe bets by stock market investors – were among the top decliners.

The financials index rose 0.9%, while growth stocks Google-owner Alphabet Inc, Facebook Inc, Tesla Inc and Nvidia Corp gained between 0.2% and 2.8%, providing the biggest boost to the Nasdaq.

The benchmark S&P 500 posted its 50th record high close of this year on Tuesday as positive news on COVID-19 vaccines raised hopes of a swift economic recovery after worries about a spike in the Delta variant of the coronavirus sparked volatility in markets earlier this month.

Focus is now on the Fed’s economic symposium at Jackson Hole later this week for views on when the central bank will start tapering its massive asset purchases program. Fed chair Jerome Powell will speak on Friday.

“When it gets down to investors’ confidence in the direction of the market, there’s still a lot of anxiety about the Delta variant,” said Greg Bassuk, chief executive of AXS Investments in New York.

“There’s not a consistent set of data points that we can hang our hat on, in terms of knowing the longer term direction of the markets.”

Earlier in the day, data showed new orders for key U.S.-made capital goods were unexpectedly flat in July amid supply constraints, suggesting a moderation in business spending on equipment after robust growth over the past year.

Meanwhile, Reuters calculations showed that global corporate profits, a key driver of the recent rally, are likely to fall in the third quarter for the first time in 18 months after record earnings in April-June.

At 10:13 a.m. ET, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 17.61 points, or 0.05%, at 35,383.87, the S&P 500 was up 4.88 points, or 0.11%, at 4,491.11, and the Nasdaq Composite was up 12.96 points, or 0.09%, at 15,032.76.

Progress on the Biden administration’s multi-trillion-dollar spending plans was also on investors’ radar after the U.S. House of Representatives approved a $3.5 trillion budget framework and agreed to vote by Sept. 27 on a $1 trillion Senate-passed infrastructure bill.

Among stocks, Nordstrom Inc tumbled 17.9% after the department store operator posted a 6% decline in quarterly revenue from pre-pandemic levels and flagged supply chain issues and stiff competition.

Dick’s Sporting Goods Inc jumped 13.7% after the sporting goods retailer announced a special dividend and raised its annual sales and profit forecast.

Advancing issues outnumbered decliners by a 1.40-to-1 ratio on the NYSE and a 1.26-to-1 ratio on the Nasdaq.

The S&P index recorded 36 new 52-week highs and 1 new low, while the Nasdaq recorded 97 new highs and 21 new lows.

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