S&P 500, Nasdaq propped up by tech stocks; retail earnings awaited

(Reuters) – Technology-related shares lifted the S&P 500 and Nasdaq on Monday as investors turned to sectors that have been resilient to the shocks of the coronavirus pandemic, while awaiting the earnings of big retailers later this week.

Chipmaker Nvidia Corp was among the top gainers on the Nasdaq, touching a record high ahead of its quarterly results due on Wednesday.

Home improvement chains such as Lowe’s Cos Inc and Home Depot Inc rose more than 1% each ahead of their quarterly earnings later in the week. The two companies are expected to have received a bump to their quarterly sales from consumers looking to do minor repair work, while spending more time at home.

The S&P 500 retailing index rose 0.9%, with heavyweights Walmart Inc and Target Corp also set to report their earnings.

“Earnings season in general has been much better than expected, but a big part of that is because expectation has been so low,” said Willie Delwiche, investment strategist at Baird in Milwaukee.

“What matters for the market now is not what happened last quarter, it is what happens going forward – whether it is the economic data or company earnings.”

As of Friday, 457 companies in the S&P 500 had posted results, of which 81.4% came in above dramatically lowered expectations, according to Refinitiv data.

The benchmark S&P 500 traded a few points shy of a record intraday high hit in February after flirting with that level for most of last week, while the Dow Jones was weighed down by losses in financial and industrial stocks.

The tech-heavy Nasdaq was the first of the major Wall Street indexes to recoup its coronavirus-driven losses as the bulk of its constituents faced minimal disruptions or, in some cases, benefited from curbs on social activity.

Minutes of the Federal Reserve’s latest meeting, due on Wednesday, are expected to provide more insight into the central bank’s view of an economic recovery, while housing starts data is also on tap.

Investors are girding their portfolios for market moves ahead of the U.S. presidential vote, as the election season kicks into higher gear with the Democratic National Convention, which runs Monday through Thursday.

The Republican convention will be held from Aug. 24 to Aug. 27 and both will be mostly virtual this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

At 11:00 a.m. ET, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was down 29.45 points, or 0.11%, at 27,901.57 and the S&P 500 was up 11.75 points, or 0.35%, at 3,384.60. The Nasdaq Composite was up 79.07 points, or 0.72%, at 11,098.37.

Seven of the 11 major S&P sectors rose, with technology providing the biggest support to the benchmark index.

Among individual movers, Principia Biopharma Inc jumped 9.3% to a record high after French healthcare firm Sanofi SA said it would buy the company for about $3.7 billion.

Shares of Chinese ecommerce player Alibaba Group were flat after U.S. President Donald Trump said on Saturday he could exert pressure on more Chinese companies after he moved to ban TikTok earlier in the month.

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Alibaba’s peer JD.com Inc rose 1.9% after it beat analysts’ estimates for quarterly revenue.

Advancing issues outnumbered decliners by a 1.27-to-1 ratio on the NYSE and by a 1.11-to-1 ratio on the Nasdaq.

The S&P index recorded 23 new 52-week highs and no new low, while the Nasdaq recorded 59 new highs and five new lows.

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