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Bitcoin Hits High of Nearly $67,000, and the S&P 500 Toys With a Record – The New York Times


The S&P 500 posted its sixth-consecutive gain on Wednesday but fell short of a record after a Federal Reserve official expressed concerns about inflation, suggesting that policymakers were prepared to pull back on support for the economy if price gains continue to hold up.

The benchmark U.S. index closed up 0.4 percent at 4,536.19, after earlier climbing above its Sept. 2 closing record of 4,536.95. The index has rallied 5.5 percent in less than three weeks, recouping its losses from September, which was the stock market’s worst month this year.

Wednesday’s rally was tempered somewhat after a Federal Reserve governor, Randal K. Quarles, said that his attention was shifting to too-high inflation — with price increases running well over the Fed’s target of 2 percent —  and that the central bank’s policy-setting Federal Open Market Committee would be prepared to react if it stays that way.

“If inflation does remain more than moderately above 2 percent, be assured that the F.O.M.C. has the framework and the tools to address it,” Mr. Quarles said in remarks prepared for delivery at the 2021 Milken Institute Global Conference.

Mr. Quarles’s comments echoed those of another Fed governor, Christopher Waller, who said on Tuesday that “if monthly prints of inflation continue to run high through the remainder of this year, a more aggressive policy response than just tapering may well be warranted in 2022.”

The caution comes as the Fed prepares to begin paring its large-scale bond purchases — a process commonly called tapering — and as officials start to debate when and how quickly they will need to raise interest rates from near-zero.

Both policies have helped to keep borrowing costs low and demand strong, and investors are closely watching for signs that the central bank may hasten its plans to pull back on the support.

The S&P 500’s string of back-to-back gains has coincided with the start of earnings-reporting season, as a number of high-profile businesses turned in results for the three months ending in September that beat expectations.

On Wednesday, Verizon shares rose 2.4 percent after it said profits rose 45.5 percent in the three months ending in September compared with the same period last year.

A rally in oil prices has also lifted shares of energy companies this month, while a political agreement to raise the debt ceiling — albeit temporarily — and avoid a default by the United States also removed a major concern for investors.

Signs that Democratic lawmakers in Washington were closing in on a domestic spending plan also lifted sentiment. A compromise among Democrats on a broad social-spending plan could pave the way for a bipartisan $1 trillion infrastructure bill to advance. Shares of companies that would benefit from that bill were sharply higher on Wednesday.

United Rentals, which lends out construction and industrial equipment, and Vulcan Materials, which produces concrete and other construction materials, gained more than 3 percent. Both were among the best-performing stocks in the S&P 500.

Not all the earnings results recently have brought good news. The consumer product giants Procter & Gamble and Nestle both said this week that they were raising prices as they face higher freight costs and supply chain disruptions.

“The latest releases have helped to distract from stagflation fears but have diverted attention toward supply chain bottlenecks,” said Fiona Cincotta, senior financial markets analyst at Forex.com.

Also on Wednesday, Bitcoin climbed to a high, nearly touching $67,000, according to CoinDesk, after Tuesday’s launch of a Bitcoin futures exchange-traded fund. Bitcoin’s previous record had been about $64,000, set in April. The E.T.F. drew nearly $1 billion in trading volume, one of the biggest fund debuts in history.

Oil prices rose, with West Texas Intermediate, the U.S. benchmark crude, gaining 1.1 percent to $83.87.



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