By Damian J. Troise
Stocks eked out small gains on Wall Street Thursday, but major indexes are still headed for a weekly loss after being tripped up by a disconcerting report on rising inflation.
The latest round of mostly solid corporate earnings has been winding down after helping the broader market rise for weeks and reach a series of records. Inflation concerns have been rattling investors throughout the week, however. The benchmark S&P 500 is on track for its first weekly loss in six weeks.
“It’s a pretty simple rule to be long during earnings and cautious outside of earnings,” said Jay Hatfield, CEO of Infrastructure Capital Advisors, “Earnings ends and then the stock market is a victim of other data, which tends to be bad.”
The S&P 500 rose 2.56 points, or 0.1%, to 4,629.27. The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 158.71 points, or 0.4%, to 35,921.23 largely due to a steep drop in Walt Disney. The Nasdaq rose 81.58 points, or 0.5%, to 15,704.28.
Technology stocks did most of the heavy lifting for the benchmark S&P 500 and chipmakers were particularly strong. Nvidia rose 3.2% and Qualcomm rose 2.9%. Banks also made solid gains. Citigroup rose 1%.
Coach and Kate Spade owner Tapestry jumped 8.4% after reporting strong fiscal first-quarter financial results.
Smaller-company stocks outpaced the broader market in a sign that investors were confident about economic growth. The Russell 2000 rose 0.8%.
Communications companies were dragged down by Walt Disney. The entertainment company slumped 7.1% after reporting a slowdown in subscriber gains at its streaming channel and weak fiscal fourth-quarter financial results.
Beyond Meat dropped 13.3% after reporting a much wider loss than analysts were expecting.
The muted gains on Thursday follow a broad drop on Wednesday when every major index slipped on over a hotter-than-expected inflation report from the Labor Department that revealed a surge in consumer prices in October. That report came on the heels of data on Tuesday that showed inflation at the wholesale level also surged in October.
The inflation concerns pushed bond yields broadly higher on Wednesday, though the bond market was closed for Veterans Day on Thursday. The yield on the 10-year Treasury stood at 1.55% as of late Wednesday.
Companies have been warning that they are being squeezed by higher raw materials costs and supply chain problems. Many have been able to pass off those higher costs to consumers, but that has raised concerns about higher prices eventually prompting a pullback in consumer spending.
The latest report on consumer prices revealed that inflation is hitting essential items such as food, rent, autos and heating oil particularly hard. Analysts worry that consumers could cut spending on discretionary items to focus on essentials, which could then crimp the broader economic recovery.
Concerns about rising inflation are also raising expectations that the Federal Reserve will have to raise short-term interest rates more quickly off their record low. The central bank has already begun to pare back on the bond purchases it makes every month to keep longer-term rates low.
“The weird thing is what’s hurting the economy is also supporting the stock market,” Hatfield said, referring to the Fed’s stimulus measures.
Updated on November 11, 2021, at 4:56 p.m. ET.