The major equity indexes just managed to squeeze over into positive territory on Thursday. Shares of McDonald’s rose 2.23 percent, their largest single-day percentage gain in more than two months, after Longbow Research upgraded the stock to “buy.”
The financial index was up 0.12 percent, while the Russell 2000 index of small cap stocks rose 0.27 percent. Both are expected to be among the beneficiaries of a tax reduction.
But gains were tempered with equities at record highs and valuations elevated. The forward price-to-earnings ratio (P/E) on the S&P stood at 17.9 compared with its long-term average of 15.1 while the forward P/E on the Russell is 26.3 against an average of 21.3.
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Trump’s proposal for a cut in the corporate income tax rate to 20 percent was “not negotiable.” The plan, which called for tax cuts for most Americans, also drew criticism for favoring business and the rich and potentially adding trillions of dollars to the deficit.
A Commerce Department report showed the economy grew a bit faster than previously estimated in the second quarter, but the momentum probably slowed in the third as Hurricanes Harvey and Irma temporarily curbed activity. The storms also pushed up initial claims for state unemployment benefits for the week, the Labor Department said.
The healthcare index led S&P gainers, rising by a third of a percent.
AbbVie was the largest aid to the S&P 500 index, rising 4.97 percent after announcing a global resolution of intellectual property-related litigation with Amgen.
Abbott advanced 2.86 percent after the FDA approved the company’s glucose monitoring device. The company also won antitrust approval to buy Alere on condition that it sell two point-of-care medical testing businesses.
Approximately 5.85 billion shares changed hands on the major domestic equity exchanges, as compared to the 6.26 billion share daily average over the last 20 trading sessions.
GDP Improved a Bit
Gross domestic product expanded a bit faster than previously estimated in the second quarter, recording its quickest rate of growth in more than two years, but the momentum likely slowed in the third quarter due to the impact of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma.
The Commerce Department indicated on Thursday that third estimate showed that GDP increased at a 3.1 percent annual rate during the April-June period. The upward revision from the 3.0 percent rate of growth reported last month reflected a rise in inventory investment.
Economic growth last quarter was the quickest since the first quarter of 2015 and followed a 1.2 percent pace in the January-March period. Economists estimate that Harvey and Irma, which struck Texas and Florida, could cut as much as six-tenths of a percentage point from GDP growth in the third quarter.
Harvey was blamed for much of the decline in retail sales, industrial production, homebuilding and home sales in August. Further weakness is anticipated in September because of Irma.
Rebuilding efforts are, however, expected to increase GDP growth during the fourth quarter and in early 2018. Signs of increasing inventory investment by businesses could soften the storms’ punch to the economy.
In a separate report on Thursday, the Commerce Department said wholesale inventories rose 1.0 percent in August after rising 0.6 percent in July. Inventories at retailers rose 0.7 percent after being unchanged in July. The department also said the goods trade deficit fell 1.4 percent to $62.9 billion in August.
That leaves an upside risk to growth estimates for the July-September quarter, which are below 2.5 percent.
Harvey and Irma continue to impact the labor market and are expected to cut into job growth this month. In a third report, the Labor Department said initial claims for state unemployment benefits increased 12,000 to a seasonally adjusted 272,000 for the week ended Sept. 23.
Nonetheless, the labor market remains strong. Claims have now been below the 300,000 level, which is associated with a robust labor market, for 134 straight weeks. That is the longest such stretch since 1970, when the labor market was smaller.
Growth in consumer spending, which makes up more than two-thirds of the U.S. economy, was unrevised at a 3.3 percent rate in the second quarter as an increase in spending on services was offset by a downward revision to durable goods outlays.
Amid robust consumer spending, businesses accumulated a bit more inventory than previously reported to meet the strong demand. Inventory investment added just over one-tenth of a percentage point to GDP growth in the second quarter. It was previously reported to have been neutral.
Growth in business spending on equipment was unchanged at a rate of 8.8 percent, the fastest pace in nearly two years.
Investment on nonresidential structures was revised to show it increasing at a 7.0 percent pace, up from the previously reported 6.2 percent rate. There were minor revisions to government spending, exports and imports.
Investment in homebuilding was weaker than previously reported, with outlays falling at a 7.3 percent rate rather than at a 6.5 percent pace.