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Wall Street climbs to close another winning month with more records

The New York Stock Exchange
U.S. stocks set fresh records, closing February on a winning note, as the latest inflation data kept intact hopes that the Fed may begin cutting interest rates in June.
(Seth Wenig / Associated Press)
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U.S. stocks climbed to more all-time highs Thursday as Wall Street closed its latest winning month.

The Standard & Poor’s 500 rose 26.51 points, or 0.5%, to 5,096.27 to top its record set last week. The Nasdaq composite led the market with a gain of 144.18 points, or 0.9%, to 16,091.92 and surpassed its all-time high that had stood since 2021. The Dow Jones industrial average finished just below its record set last week after rising 47.37 points, or 0.1%, to 38,996.39.

In the bond market, yields eased after a closely followed inflation report showed prices across the country rose pretty much as expected last month. That calmed worries that had built on Wall Street that the inflation data could show a discomforting reacceleration. Earlier reports had shown prices rose more than expected in January at both the consumer and wholesale levels.

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“While inflation was hotter than it’s been in a while, it may be more of a flash in the pan than the start of something worse,” said Brian Jacobsen, chief economist at Annex Wealth Management.

Thursday’s report kept intact hopes that the Federal Reserve may begin cutting interest rates in June. Such a move would relax the pressure on the economy and boost investment prices, and the Fed has indicated several cuts may be coming this year.

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The Fed’s main interest rate is sitting at its highest level since 2001 in hopes of grinding down inflation by dragging on the economy through more expensive mortgage and credit-card payments. Hopes for coming cuts to rates helped launch the U.S. stock market’s big rally in late October, and the S&P 500 just closed its fourth straight winning month.

Relief on rates, though, would come only if the Fed sees additional convincing data that inflation is sustainably heading down toward its target of 2%.

Traders have recently been pushing back forecasts for when the Fed may begin cutting rates. A series of strong reports on the economy have pushed expectations out from March. On Thursday, another report showed fewer U.S. workers filed for unemployment benefits last week than economists expected. It’s the latest signal of a remarkably resilient job market.

In the meantime, the hope is that a solid economy will fuel growth in profits for U.S. companies, even if it means a delay to rate cuts.

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Salesforce.com became one of the latest companies to report better profit for the latest quarter than analysts expected on Wednesday evening. The customer-resource management software company also said it plans to begin paying a quarterly dividend to its investors, but it gave a forecast for revenue this upcoming year that was a bit below analysts’ expectations. Its stock climbed 3% after flipping between gains and losses in the morning.

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Hormel Foods led the S&P 500 with a 14.6% leap after it reported stronger profit and revenue than expected. It cited broad-based growth across its brands, including Skippy peanut butter, Chi-Chi’s salsa and Corn Nuts snacks.

Nvidia climbed 1.9% to recover from back-to-back drops, a rare blip in what’s been a monster run amid Wall Street’s frenzy around artificial-intelligence technology. Because it’s one of the biggest stocks on Wall Street, Nvidia was one of the strongest forces lifting the S&P 500.

C3.ai jumped 24.5% after the software company reported a smaller loss than analysts expected and stronger revenue.

They helped offset a 5.4% drop for Bath & Body Works. The seller of fragrances, body lotion and three-wick candles reported better profit than expected, helped by a strong holiday season, but it said sales may weaken this upcoming year.

Even though it nearly doubled analysts’ fourth-quarter profit projections, the cloud-computing company Snowflake tumbled 18.1% after a surprise announcement that Chief Executive Frank Slootman was retiring effective immediately. Slootman will be replaced by Sridhar Ramaswamy.

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Chemours tumbled 31.5% after it put its CEO and two other top executives on administrative leave while the audit committee of its board conducts a review. The company said it needs more time to complete its year-end reporting process, and it delayed the release of its quarterly results, which was earlier planned for Wednesday.

In the bond market, the yield on the 10-year Treasury slipped to 4.25% from 4.27% late Wednesday.

The two-year yield, which more closely tracks expectations for the Fed, dipped to 4.63% from 4.65%. It had been near 4.70% shortly before the morning’s release of the inflation data.

In stock markets abroad, indexes were mixed.

Tokyo’s Nikkei 225 dipped 0.1% after data showed factory output falling in January at the fastest pace since May 2020, though retail sales were stronger than expected.

Hong Kong’s Hang Seng slipped 0.2%, while stocks in Shanghai jumped 1.9%. The smaller index in Shenzhen surged even more after regulators released new measures to support markets including closer oversight of financial derivatives.

AP reporters Matt Ott and Elaine Kurtenbach contributed to this report.

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