ASX set to inch up as Wall Street ticks higher

By Stan Choe

Another tick higher for Wall Street added to its big rally for the year following profit reports from a spate of banks and other big US companies.

The S&P 500 rose 0.2 per cent. After its seventh gain the last eight days, it’s now up nearly 19 per cent for the year so far and at its highest level in more than 15 months.

Wall Street has continued to climb.
Wall Street has continued to climb. Credit: Reuters

The Dow Jones gained 0.3 per cent and the Nasdaq composite edged up by less than 0.1 per cent. The Australian sharemarket is set to inch higher, with futures at 5.02am AEST pointing to a fall of 1 point at the open. The ASX added 0.6 per cent on Wednesday.

Elevance Health helped lead the market after it climbed 4.4 per cent The insurance provider reported stronger profit and revenue for the spring than analysts expected, while raising its forecast for earnings over the full year.

Stocks also broadly got a boost from easing pressure from the bond market. Yields there were holding steady or falling after a report showed UK inflation cooled by more than expected. It eased to 7.9 per cent in June, a 15-month low.

The UK data follows encouraging US reports that have raised hope inflation is moderating enough to convince the Federal Reserve to halt its hikes to interest rates soon. That could help the economy avoid a long-predicted recession.

The pressure caused by high rates has already helped cause the failures of several U.S. banks, which saw customers suddenly flee in flocks. Other smaller and midsized banks have since been under heavy scrutiny by investors, and they’re beginning to report their results for the spring.

Western Alliance Bancorp bounced from an early loss to a gain of 7.8 per cent after reporting weaker profit for the latest quarter than analysts expected. It also said customers added $3.5 billion in deposits from April through June.


US Bancorp rose 6.5 per cent after reporting weaker profit than expected but slightly stronger revenue. It also said its deposits grew 3.2 per cent from earlier this year. M&T Bank gained 2.5 per cent after reporting stronger profit than expected and higher deposits. Investment bank Goldman Sachs added 1 per cent after it fell short of profit expectations for the latest quarter but topped forecasts for revenue.

One of Wall Street’s biggest winners was Carvana, which soared 40.2 per cent. The used-car dealer agreed with its creditors to reduce its debt by more than $US1.2 billion ($1.8 billion). It also reported a milder net loss for the latest quarter than analysts expected.

The earnings reporting season is picking up momentum in its second week, and expectations are broadly low. Analysts are forecasting a third straight quarter of drops in earnings per share for S&P 500 companies, but that low bar also makes it easier for companies to top expectations.

Trucking company J.B. Hunt Transport Services reported a drop in earnings per share for the latest quarter that was worse than analysts expected. But its stock nevertheless rose 3.8 per cent. Analysts pointed to the company’s highlighting some encouraging trends, with a possible return to growth appearing closer on the horizon.

On the losing side of Wall Street was Omnicom Group. The marketing and communications company fell 10.4 per cent after investors focused on its falling short of analysts’ expectations for revenue growth during the spring.

“Probably the best way to sum up this market at the moment is, ‘can’t stop, won’t stop,’” said JJ Kinahan, CEO of IG North America.

The S&P 500 has already soared 18.9 per cent so far this year as the economy has managed to power through high interest rates, mostly thanks to a remarkably solid job market. Early in the year, much of the market’s gains came from just a small handful of Big Tech stocks, but the gains have broadened out a bit recently as the economy has held up and inflation has cooled more.

In the commodities market, wheat prices surged after Russia launched drone and missile attacks on critical port infrastructure in Ukraine, destroying 60,000 tonnes of grain. The price of soft red winter wheat, traded in Chicago and used for cookies and specialty products, rose 8.5 per cent.

The attacks come days after Russia pulled out of the Black Sea Grain Initiative, which allowed exports from Ukraine to reach many countries facing the threat of hunger.

In stock markets abroad, the FTSE 100 in London jumped 1.8 per cent following the encouraging inflation data there.

Stocks were mixed elsewhere in Europe and across Asia. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng fell 0.3 per cent, partly due to selling of property shares after troubled developer China Evergrande reported its total debts rose in the past two years to about $US340 billion.

In the bond market, the yield on the 10-year Treasury slipped to 3.74 per cent from 3.79 per cent late Tuesday. It helps set rates for mortgages and other important loans.


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