US stocks: Wall Street ends sharply higher as earnings and economic data raise optimism

NEW YORK: US stocks surged Thursday as companies such as Morgan Stanley and UnitedHealth advanced after strong results, while labor market data and inflation eased concerns over rate hike prospects .

The tech sector gave the S&P 500 its biggest boost, with shares of Microsoft Corp and Apple Inc rising.

Shares of Citigroup, Bank of America Corp and Morgan Stanley rose after exceeding quarterly earnings estimates. The rebounding economy allowed them to free up more money than they had set aside for pandemic-related losses, while scorching deals, equity financing and trading boosted profits. The S&P banking index surged.

UnitedHealth Group Inc also climbed after the health insurer released its results and raised its full-year adjusted profit forecast thanks to its Optum unit which manages pharmacy benefits.

Adding to the optimism, the data showed that the number of Americans filing new jobless claims last week fell near a 19-month low, and a separate report showed prices at the production had fallen in September.

“Some of the things that worried the market in September, and even last week, about the inflation aspect and the higher interest rates and the Delta variant, may have eased,” Alan said. Lancz, president of Alan B. Lancz & Associates Inc., an investment advisory firm, based in Toledo, Ohio.

“It’s not that it’s all over, but on a temporary scale at least, you can argue for a trend in the right direction.”

According to preliminary data, the S&P 500 gained 74.35 points, or 1.70%, to finish at 4,438.15 points, while the Nasdaq Composite gained 248.97 points, or 1.71%, to 14 824.90. The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 532.21 points, or 1.55%, to 34,910.02.

The gains were widespread, with all sectors of the S&P 500 rising.

Moderna Inc shares were significantly higher after a panel of expert advisers from the United States Food and Drug Administration voted to recommend booster shots of its COVID-19 vaccine for Americans 65 and older and those at high risk of serious illness.

Also in terms of earnings, Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc surged after the drugstore chain reported fourth quarter revenue and adjusted earnings above estimates and forecast long-term growth of 11% to 13%.

U.S. companies are expected to post strong quarterly profit growth for the third quarter, but investors have been eager to hear what they say on rising costs, labor shortages and supply issues . (Additional reporting by Devik Jain in Bengaluru and Federica Urso in Gdansk; Editing by Arun Koyyur and David Gregorio)

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