Close Update: Stocks End Mixed After Strong Retail Sales Report; Verizon, Chevron Lift Dow to Record High

Wednesday, February 17, 2021 4:34 PM | MT Newswires

US stocks closed mixed on Wednesday, with key indexes near record levels after the government reported sharply higher retail sales last month. Verizon (VZ) and Chevron (CVX) lifted the Dow Jones Industrial Average on news that Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway (BRK.B, BRK.A) bought stakes in the companies.

The Dow rose 0.3% to 31,614.27, the S&P 500 was flat at 3,931.35 and the Nasdaq Composite fell 0.6% to 13,965.49. Energy was the top gainer, while technology, industrials and materials were the only decliners.

On Wednesday, data showed a 1.3% rise in US producer prices last month following a 0.3% uptick in December.

Retail sales jumped by 5.3% in January, after a 1% dip in December, boosted by recent stimulus payments.

"Fiscal stimulus is the clear driver, and today's report is proof that there's significant propensity to spend stimulus payments," said Jefferies economist Aneta Markowska. " There's more coming in March, with additional supports from the reopening and vaccinations, so this is just the beginning."

"Of course, one data point does not make a trend, or in this case, one month of solid spending does not imply the consumer is back out of the woods. With labor market conditions still fragile and the broader recovery in the economy still uncertain amid the seemingly unending pandemic, the average American is still struggling," said Stifel Economics' chief economist Lindsey Piegza.

"Nevertheless, a pop in activity is a welcomed step in the right direction and a reminder of the need for organic momentum to help boost the economy back to some semblance of normal."

US bond yields rose on the back of improving economic data, with the 10-Treasury note rising to 1.278%, its highest level since February last year.

In other economic news, Federal Open Markets Committee members generally agreed that the US economy remains "far" from its longer-run goals and that uncertainty remains despite signs that conditions are improving, according to minutes from the committee's Jan. 26-27 meeting.

The minutes said it's "likely to take some time for substantial further progress to be achieved," but that it is important to communicate progress to the public long before it warrants a change in policy.

Meanwhile, big tech stocks slumped as Twitter (TWTR) dropped 3% and Apple (AAPL) shed 2%.

Among the gainers, CLPS (CLPS) closed 121% higher after the Hong Kong-based IT firm struck a deal with a US digital payment platform to provide IT services for its international business. Ebang International (EBON) rose 33% on plans to launch a bitcoin mining business. Nektar Therapeutics (NKTR) added 13% on a partnership with Merck (MRK) to study bempegaldesleukin molecule plus Merck's Keytruda for head and neck cancer.

On the losing side, Pyxis Tankers (PXS) fell 31% on deals to sell some 14.89 million shares to institutional investors at $1.75 each, a discount to its closing price of $2.96 on Tuesday. China's Luokung Technology (LKCO) was down 26% after it struck deals to sell $100 million shares at $2.08 each, with 48.1 million warrants attached. Seanergy Maritime (SHIP) fell 23% on deals to sell about 44.2 million shares to investors at $1.70 per share, against its Tuesday's closing price of $2.26.

On the energy front, oil prices were higher, extending their recent gains and shrugging off reports of Saudi Arabia's plan to raise output, with US West Texas Intermediate up 2% to $61.22 per barrel and Brent crude 1.7% higher to $64.42. Natural gas price rose 3.7% to $3.25 per 1 million BTU.

In the precious metals markets, gold was down 1.4% to $1,774.20 an ounce, while Silver was up 0.4% to $27.42 an ounce.

Among energy ETFs, the United States Oil Fund was up 1.1% to $40.89 while the United States Natural Gas Fund gained 1.8% to $11.30. Among precious-metal funds, the Market Vectors Gold Miners ETF was down 2.6% to $33.22 and SPDR Gold Shares fell 1.1% to $166.36. The iShares Silver Trust rose 0.6% to $25.40.

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