U.S. Stocks Advance as Commodity Shares Recover, Tech Rallies

Are China Fears Overblown?
  • China shores up yuan, adding to faith turmoil can be tamed
  • Apple, Intel pace tech gains for a second wild session

U.S. stocks rose in late-afternoon trading for a second day, paced by technology and health-care shares as China’s efforts to shore up its currency bolstered optimism that it can tame the turmoil that’s rattled global financial markets.

Equities have been whipsawed in the first two sessions following their steepest weekly decline in four years, with early rallies evaporating only to see stocks storm back in the final hour of trading. Commodity producers recovered losses and tech shares surged, with Intel Corp. and Apple Inc. pacing the group for a second straight day. Energy companies erased a drop of as much as 2.3 percent as crude trimmed its slide.

The Standard & Poor’s 500 Index increased 0.8 percent to 1,938.68 at 4 p.m. in New York, the strongest gain in two weeks and the first back-to-back advance since Dec. 23. The Dow Jones Industrial Average added 117.65 points, or 0.7 percent, to 16,516.22. The Nasdaq Composite Index gained 1 percent to halt its longest losing streak since 2008. The Russell 2000 Index added 0.3 percent after flirting with a bear market for a second day.

“We’re slowly but surely finding a bottom in this selloff,” said Tim Ghriskey, who helps oversee $1.5 billion as managing director and chief investment officer at Solaris Asset Management. “There’s some talk out there that this blowout in energy provides some technical support, and that this is a short-term bottom forming. The pullback really wasn’t based on much new news.”

Worries that turbulence in China’s stocks and currency will spread to the global economy has spurred declines in markets in 2016 -- the S&P 500 posted its worst-ever start to a year, sliding 6 percent last week. China’s measures today to defend the yuan helped ease investor concerns about a hard landing in the nation’s economy, sparking a record surge in Hong Kong’s money-market rates and deterring bearish speculators.

The main U.S. equity benchmark’s tumble to start 2016 has left it 9 percent below its all-time high set in May after coming within 1 percent of the record as recently as November. It is 3.8 percent above the bottom of an August swoon, which was also sparked by anxiety over the impact of China’s weakness on worldwide growth.

Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta President Dennis Lockhart said yesterday a global selloff in stock markets is unlikely to affect the U.S. economy, and he favors continued tightening of monetary policy this year. Richmond Fed President Jeffrey Lacker said today the current strength of the economy, particularly “robust” consumer spending growth, “is a powerful argument” for higher rates.

Earnings Watch

Investors will also be turning attention to corporate earnings, after Alcoa Inc. unofficially kicked off earnings season yesterday. The aluminum producer fell 9 percent, the most in more than four years after its sales last quarter dropped 18 percent, and the company reported a net loss as falling aluminum prices dulled the impact of cost-cutting efforts.

JPMorgan Chase & Co., Intel and Citigroup Inc. are among companies scheduled to post their quarterly results this week. Analysts estimate profits for S&P 500 members fell 6.7 percent last quarter.

Earnings season will “calm fears” in the U.S. equity market, Adam Parker, chief U.S. equity strategist at Morgan Stanley, wrote today in a client note. Expectations have been lowered so much for sectors like energy and raw-materials that they “should be cleared,” considering the lack of “large headwinds from macro factors,” he wrote.

The Chicago Board Options Exchange Volatility Index fell 7.5 percent Tuesday to 22.47, adding to yesterday’s 10 percent drop after a 48 percent jump last week to a three-month high. The measure of market turbulence known as the VIX remains on track for its biggest monthly gain since August’s 135 percent jump. About 9 billion shares traded hands on U.S. exchanges, 26 percent above the three-month average.

Following the afternoon rally, eight of S&P 500’s 10 main industries climbed today, with technology, health-care and consumer discretionary shares increasing at least 1 percent. Utilities and phone companies fell.

Apple, Intel

Apple rose 1.5 percent, capping its first three-day advance since Nov. 20. Intel added 1.9 percent for its strongest back-to-back climb also since Nov. 20 before its earnings report on Thursday. Cognizant Technology Solutions Corp. gained 6.3 percent, the most since August, after reaffirming its full-year sales and profit expectations following floods in India last quarter.

Anthem Inc. and Aetna Inc. added more than 3.8 percent to boost the health-care group after the health insurers said profit will probably increase this year, ahead of presentations at a JPMorgan health-care conference. The Nasdaq Biotechnology Index rose 1.5 percent, snapping its longest losing streak since September, after the gauge wiped out an earlier 2 percent slide.

Consumer discretionary shares advanced for a second day. Starbucks Corp. added 2.8 percent amid plans to accelerate its expansion in China, while Walt Disney Co. rose 1.5 percent after yesterday ending an eight-day skid.

Energy companies in the benchmark closed 0.4 percent higher, their first gain in five sessions, even as crude oil sank 3.1 percent with West Texas Intermediate crude reaching its lowest settlement since 2003. The resource was down for a seventh straight day, slipping 18 percent over the period. Exxon Mobil Corp. and Chevron Corp. increased at least 1.7 percent, while Valero Energy Corp. advanced 3.1 percent.

Raw-materials companies were little changed, despite the price of copper sliding to the lowest since 2009. The decline came as Barclays Plc cut its price forecast and said recent data makes a recovery in the year’s first half less likely in China, the world’s biggest user. Freeport-McMoRan decreased 4.6 percent to the lowest level since December 2000, after falling as much as 15 percent.

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