U.S. stocks open flat with S&P 500 just shy of record high as interest rate optimism holds sway

U.S. stock indexes were little changed on Wednesday morning, with the S&P 500 opening a fraction shy of a fresh record amid lingering optimism that U.S. borrowing costs will fall in 2024.

How are stock indexes trading

  • The S&P 500
    dipped less than 1 point, leaving it nearly flat, at 4,774

  • The Dow Jones Industrial Average
    fell 38 points, or 0.1% to 37,501

  • The Nasdaq Composite
    rose 31 points, or 0.2%, to 15,099

On Tuesday, the Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 0.4%, to 37545, the S&P 500 increased 0.4%, to 4,775, and the Nasdaq Composite gained 0.5%, to 15,075.

What’s driving markets

The S&P 500 opened Wednesday’s session only about 0.5% below its record closing high of 4,796.56, set on January 3rd, 2022.

The Wall Street equity benchmark is striving for a ninth consecutive week of gains, which would be its best such winning streak since 2004, having jumped 24.4% so far in 2023.

Investors have piled into stocks primarily on hopes that with inflation falling back near the Federal Reserve’s 2% target, the central bank will start reducing borrowing costs by the spring of 2024, and all while the U.S. economy avoids a recession.

“Aside from the customary Santa seasonality, any gains witnessed for the remainder of this week may be attributed to the notable increase in the probability of a soft landing, as indicated by the latest round of high-impact macroeconomic data from the United States,” said Stephen Innes.

That bullish narrative was being additionally supported Wednesday, by a mostly positive return to trading by markets that were closed for an extended Christmas break, such as the U.K.
and Australia

Indeed, Hong Kong and mainland China markets
were also buoyed by a rebound for gaming stocks after Beijing appeared to take a more conciliatory tone towards the sector.

Meanwhile, traders were keeping a wary eye on the oil market for any signs that increased Middle East tensions might sharply lift prices and revive inflationary pressures.

Brent crude oil
the global benchmark, early Wednesday was trading at a near one-month high above $80 a barrel, though moves on the day were fairly meager. “The bullish market reaction looks relatively week given the amplitude of the issues in the region.” said Ipek Ozkardeskaya, senior analyst at Swissquote Bank.

Companies in focus

  • Shares of Cytokinetics Inc. 
     jumped 70% on Wednesday, after the cardiovascular biopharmaceutical company announced positive results from a Phase 3 trial of aficamten, a treatment for hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM).

  • Iovance Biotherapeutics Inc.’s stock
     fell 23.2% after the cancer therapy company said the U.S. Food and Drug Administration placed a clinical hold on its trial for IOV-LUN-202. 

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