Wall Street builds on rally while Apple shines

(Reuters) – Wall Street surged on Thursday and was on track to end higher for a fifth straight session, led by Apple and other technology stocks as investors shrugged off recent inflation worries that threw the market into a sell-off at the start of the month.

Apple Inc jumped 3.2 percent and contributed more than any other stock to gains on the S&P 500 after Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway made the iPhone maker its top investment.

A Labor Department report showed U.S. producer prices rose in line with expectations in January, likely calming fears that inflation was picking up faster than expected.

Investors instead focused on recent strong quarterly earnings and expectations that more earnings growth is still to come, thanks to newly-implemented corporate and personal tax cuts.

“The economic environment is still very strong,” said Lindsey Bell, an investment strategist at CFRA Research. “And I think consumers will spend more when they see more money in their paychecks. You will see that reverberate through the economy.”

Following many forecast increases by corporations in recent weeks, analysts on average now expect S&P 500 companies to increase their earnings per share in 2018 by 18.9 percent, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Cisco surged 4.8 percent following upbeat results and a strong forecast, as the network gear maker’s years-long efforts to transform into a software-focused company began to pay off.

Wall Street investors were not alone in their optimism. Bullish sentiment among individual investors hit its highest level since mid-January in the American Association of Individual Investors’ weekly survey.

At 3:14 p.m. ET, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 0.99 percent at 25,139.51 points, while the S&P 500 had gained 1.00 percent to 2,725.57.

The Nasdaq Composite added 1.42 percent to 7,244.94.

Energy was the only major S&P 500 sector index to fall, pulled down 0.48 percent by weaker oil prices.

U.S. Treasury yields slipped as investors took a breather from selling bonds and readjusted positions to prepare for more inflation-related volatility, a scenario that could take yields even higher.

Fears of inflation and higher interest rates had sent the S&P 500 sharply lower at the start of February. In the past five sessions, the S&P 500 has gained 5.6 percent, and it remains down 5 percent from a Jan 26 record high.

“We’re stabilized for the moment. The real question was how the market reacted to the CPI and PPI numbers and it seems to have taken higher inflation in stride,” said Brad McMillan, chief investment officer of Commonwealth Financial Network in Waltham, Massachusetts.

The CBOE Volatility index, also known as Wall Street’s “fear gauge,” rose to 19.57 points, but was well below the 50 point-mark it touched last week.

Advancing issues outnumbered declining ones on the NYSE by a 1.96-to-1 ratio; on Nasdaq, a 1.99-to-1 ratio favored advancers.

Additional reporting by Sruthi Shankar and Aparajita Saxena in Bengaluru; Editing by Phil Berlowitz and Nick Zieminski

Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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