S&P and Nasdaq enjoy boost from big tech firms; Dow ends a hair lower

With just a small minority of companies having reported quarterly results so far, investors were hopeful for some good news in the days and weeks ahead.
With just a small minority of companies having reported quarterly results so far, investors were hopeful for some good news in the days and weeks ahead.PHOTO: AFP

NEW YORK (REUTERS) - The S&P and Nasdaq closed higher on Monday (Oct 18) with the biggest boosts from the highest-profile technology and communications companies, while investors eyed product news from Apple and appeared optimistic about the third-quarter earnings season.

After a weak start following disappointing economic data from China, the S&P and Nasdaq gathered steam in late morning with gains in "Faang" stocks - Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Netflix and Google -  as well as Microsoft.

Apple shares closed 1 per cent higher after the company made a splash by unveiling new Mac laptop computers with more powerful processor chips.

Facebook shares, under pressure recently, closed up more than three per cent with some positive reports out, including its plans to create 10,000 jobs in Europe to help build the so-called metaverse - an online world.

With just a small minority of companies having reported quarterly results so far, investors were hopeful for some good news in the days and weeks ahead.

"You're going to get a heavier slate of earnings reports this week from a diverse set of industries," said Mr Michael James, managing director of equity trading at Wedbush Securities in Los Angeles.

"The path of least resistance remains higher going into earnings season for large-cap tech," he added.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 36.15 points, or 0.1 per cent, to 35,258.61; the S&P 500 gained 15.09 points, or 0.34 per cent, to 4,486.46; and the Nasdaq Composite added 124.47 points, or 0.84 per cent, to 15,021.81.

Forecast-beating results from big lenders in the United States last week had set a positive tone for the third-quarter earnings season, with analysts expecting S&P 500 earnings to show a 32 per cent rise from a year ago, according to Refinitiv data.

The solid start likely helped investors shrug off uneasiness from earlier in the day after China recorded its slowest pace of economic growth in a year for the third quarter, hurt by power shortages and wobbles in the property sector.

Other top contributors to the S&P's gains were Tesla ahead of its earnings report this week; Amazon, which added 1 per cent; and chipmaker Nvidia, which closed 1.6 per cent higher.

While technology closing up 0.9 per cent was the S&P's top index point boost, consumer discretionary was the biggest percentage gainer, climbing 1.2 per cent, and communications services followed with a 0.7 per cent gain.

Johnson & Johnson, Netflix, Verizon Communications and oilfield services company Baker Hughes Co are also due to report quarterly results this week.

But while mega tech gainers were strong enough to boost the S&P and the Nasdaq, optimism was not widespread, with four industry sectors closing in the red.

Of the S&P's 11 major sectors, seven closed higher. The biggest decliners were utilities, down 0.97 per cent, and healthcare, down 0.7 per cent.

Shares of Walt Disney Co closed 3 per cent lower after Barclays downgraded the media giant's stock to "equal weight" from "overweight". Declining issues outnumbered advancing ones on the New York Stock Exchange by a 1.09-to-1 ratio; on Nasdaq, a 1.24-to-1 ratio favoured decliners.

The S&P 500 posted 39 new 52-week highs and no new lows; the Nasdaq Composite recorded 65 new highs and 113 new lows.

Volume on US exchanges was 9.1 billion shares, compared with the 10.3 billion average for the last 20 trading days.