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US Stock Indices End Mixed as Traders Weigh Retail Profits

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A wobbly day on Wall Street ended with a mixed finish for stock indexes on Thursday, pushing the S&P 500 and Nasdaq to new highs.

The S&P 500 rose 0.3% and the Nasdaq rose 0.5%, enough for the indices to hit new highs after a modest pullback a day earlier. After a series of highs and lows this week, the indices are on track for a weekly gain. The Dow Jones Industrial Average slipped 0.2%, its third decline since the start of the week.

About 67% of companies in the S&P 500 fell, although gains from large tech companies and large retailers helped offset losses in other sectors, with investors valuing the latest batch of corporate earnings reports.

Bond yields fell slightly. The yield on the 10-year Treasury bill fell to 1.59% from 1.60% on Wednesday night.

In total, the S&P 500 gained 15.87 points to 4,704.54, while the Nasdaq gained 72.14 points to 15,993.71.

The Dow Jones lost 60.10 points to 35,870.95. Small business shares also fell. The Russell 2000 Index lost 13.42 points, or 0.6%, to 2,363.59.

US stocks have mostly risen since early October, with companies reporting much higher summer profits than analysts expected. Almost all of the companies in the S&P 500 reported their latest financial results, with overall earnings growth of 39%. This far exceeds analysts’ expectations in June for 23% profit growth for the quarter.

Investors have now largely focused on the threat of rising inflation. Businesses face higher raw material costs and supply chain issues that could reduce their profits. Consumers have so far absorbed the higher prices, but analysts fear they may eventually be able to curb spending if the higher prices persist for too long.

Strong results helped lift a handful of businesses on Thursday.

Nvidia jumped 8.3% for the biggest gain in the S&P 500 after the maker of graphics chips for games and artificial intelligence reported strong financial results in the third quarter. Other chipmakers have also gained ground. Advanced Micro Devices grew 2.4% and Micron Technology 2.1%.

Companies that depend on consumer spending on goods and services have also performed well following strong retail earnings reports. Macys jumped 21.2% after the department store chain handily beat Wall Streets’ third-quarter profit forecast. Kohls also reported encouraging profits and jumped 10.6%.

Financial companies have suffered some of the biggest losses. American Express fell 1.9% and insurer Aflac fell 1.8%.

Manufacturers of consumer staples and industrial companies also fell. Kraft Heinz slipped 3.3% and General Electric fell 1.3%.

Investors received a positive update on the closely watched job market, which is seen as a key factor in the continued economic recovery.

The Labor Department said the number of Americans claiming unemployment benefits fell for the seventh week in a row to a pandemic low of 268,000.

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