By Damian J. Troise and Alex Veiga
Stocks notched more gains on Wall Street Tuesday as investors welcomed encouraging economic data and as talks on ending the war in Ukraine showed signs of progress.
The S&P 500 rose 1.2%, its fourth straight gain. The Dow Jones Industrial Average ended 1% higher and the Nasdaq composite climbed 1.8%. The latest gains build on the major indexes' gains the past two weeks, even in the midst of choppy trading and volatile energy prices.
The market rally followed signs that first face-to-face talks in two weeks between Russia and Ukraine made some progress. Turkey hosted the discussions Tuesday, and the nation's foreign minister said afterward that Russian and Ukrainian negotiators had reached “a consensus and common understanding” on some issues.
Russia’s military said it would “fundamentally” cut back operations near Ukraine’s capital and a northern city, as talks brought a possible deal to end a grinding and brutal war into view.
President Joe Biden said Tuesday he wasn't convinced yet that Russia’s announcement about scaling back its military operations will lead to a fundamental shift in the war.
Still, markets welcomed the developments and how they might affect the potential duration and impact of rising inflation on businesses and consumers when the conflict began a month ago.
“There’s a sense of hope in the market today that a resolution is nearing there,” said Lindsey Bell, chief markets and money strategist at Ally Invest.
The S&P 500 rose 56.08 points to 4,631.60. The Dow gained 338.30 points to 35,294.19, and the Nasdaq rose 264.73 points to 14,619.64.
Smaller company stocks outpaced the broader market in a sign that investors were confident about the economy. The Russell 2000 rose 55.04 points, or 2.7%, to 2,113.10.
Russia's invasion of Ukraine has been unsettling markets and adding to lingering concerns about persistently rising inflation and global economic growth.
“What we’ve seen over the course of last several weeks is capital markets have looked toward removing some of the worst case scenarios,” said Bill Northey, senior investment director at U.S. Bank Wealth Management.
Energy prices have been extremely volatile as the conflict continues, but have been easing over the last few days. Pressure on prices is also being relieved as Chinese authorities lock down Shanghai because of a surge in COVID-19 cases, which could crimp global demand for oil.
U.S. crude oil prices fell 1.6% and Brent crude, the international standard, slid 6.8%. Prices are still up more than 30% globally, but were up more than 50% as of just last week.
Falling oil prices weighed down energy companies, which had some of the biggest losses on Tuesday. Chevron fell 1.2%
More than 85% of the stocks in the benchmark S&P 500 rose. Technology and communication stocks helped power the rally, along with big retail chains, automakers and other companies that rely on consumer spending. Apple rose 1.9% and Netflix added 3.5%. Ford Motor climbed 6.5% and General Motors gained 4.6%.
European markets rose, while Asian markets closed mixed overnight.
The yield on the 10-year Treasury note, which influences interest rates on mortgages and other consumer loans, fell to 2.39% from 2.47% late Tuesday. It briefly dropped below the 2-year Treasury’s yield, what Wall Street calls an “inversion” of the Treasury yield curve. Investors take note of this because prolonged yield inversions have accurately predicted previous U.S. recessions. The 2-year Treasury yield rose to 2.36%.
The brief inversion in the yield curves may just be a blip, given that in the times when they've preceded a recession, they've remained inverted for some time and, even then, it's taken an average of 18 months before a recession followed, Bell said.
“Developments in that part of the yield curve over the next couple of days, next couple of weeks, will be really important to watch,” she said.
Bond yields had been rising as Wall Street prepares for higher interest rates after years of ultra-low interest policies from central banks around the world. The rate hikes are part of a strategy to help temper the impacts of rising inflation.
The Federal Reserve has already announced a 0.25% hike of its key benchmark interest rate and is prepared to continue raising rates.
Wall Street is also reviewing the latest economic updates this week. U.S. consumer confidence bounced back in March, according to a report from business research group The Conference Board.
The Commerce Department will release its February report for personal income and spending on Thursday and the Labor Department will release its employment report for March on Friday.
Updated on March 29, 2022, at 5:06 p.m. ET.