The S&P 500 rose to its highest level in more than five months and the Dow Jones Industrial Average climbed for a fifth session on Wednesday as solid earnings raised financial and industrial stocks and reinforced expectations for a strong second-quarter reporting season.
Upbeat earnings from CSX and United Continental helped lift the S&P 500 industrials index, which gained 1.1 percent and was among the day’s best-performing sectors.
The Dow Jones Transport Average rose 2.3 percent, its largest daily advance in three months.
Although it is still early in the reporting period, estimates for this earnings season are improving as more companies release results.
S&P 500 earnings are now expected to have increased 21.4 percent in the second quarter, up from an estimate of 20.7 percent on July 1. Of the 48 companies in the index that have reported so far, 87.5 percent posted earnings above Street expectations.
Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell, questioned by members of a House of Representatives committee, repeated on Wednesday that rising world protectionism would over time pose a risk to a U.S. and global expansion that appears largely on track to continue.
Data indicated that the housing market continues to be an economic soft spot. Housing starts fell 12.3 percent in June to a nine-month low as homebuilders struggled with higher lumber prices and persistent land and labor shortages.
Amazon’s market capitalization briefly reached $900 billion for the first time, marking a major milestone in its 21-year trajectory as a publicly listed company and threatening to dislodge Apple as Wall Street’s most valuable jewel.
Berkshire Hathaway led the financial sector higher, rising 5.3 percent on news that the company eliminated a restriction on its ability to buy back its own stock.
Morgan Stanley rose 2.8 percent after the investment bank reported better-than-expected quarterly earnings.
Shares of Alphabet edged lower after EU antitrust regulators hit the tech company with a record $5 billion fine.
Approximately 6.0 billion shares changed hands on the major domestic equity exchanges, a number that was below the 6.48 billion share average over the last 20 trading days.
Housing Starts at Nine Month Low
Housing starts hit a nine-month low during June and permits for new homes declined for a third straight month, dealing a blow to the housing market as it struggles with a dearth of properties available for sale.
Higher lumber prices and shortages of land and labor are constraining homebuilding. The housing market is lagging overall economic growth, which appears to have accelerated in the second quarter after hitting a soft patch at the start of the year.
According to a report released by the Commerce Department on Wednesday morning, housing starts fell 12.3 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.173 million units last month, the lowest level since September 2017. The percent drop was the largest since November 2016 and both single and multi-family home construction declined in June.
Data for May was revised down to show starts rising at a 1.337 million-unit rate instead of the previously reported 1.350 million-unit rate. Starts fell in all four regions last month.
Building permits were down 2.2 percent to a rate of 1.273 million units, also the lowest level since September 2017.
Single-family homebuilding, which accounts for the largest share of the housing market, decreased 9.1 percent to a rate of 858,000 units in June. Single-family homebuilding has lost momentum since hitting a pace of 948,000 units last November, which was the strongest in more than 10 years.
A survey on Tuesday showed confidence among single-family homebuilders unchanged in July, with builders continuing to be “burdened by rising construction material costs.”
Anti-subsidy duties on imports of Canadian softwood lumber, which builders say have boosted the price of a new single-family home.
Residential investment contracted in the first quarter. June’s sharp drop in homebuilding could impact forecasts for second-quarter growth, which are as high as a 5.3 percent annualized rate. The economy grew at a 2.0 percent pace in the first quarter.
While permits to build single-family homes rose 0.8 percent in June to a pace of 850,000 units, they continued to trail starts. This suggests moderate gains in single-family homebuilding in the months ahead.
Starts for the volatile multi-family housing segment fell 19.8 percent to a rate of 315,000 units in June. Starts for buildings with five units or more fell to a 10-month low.
Permits for the construction of multi-family homes dropped 7.6 percent to a pace of 423,000 units. The housing inventory squeeze is unlikely to ease. Housing completions were unchanged at a rate of 1.261 million units in June. The number of single-family houses completed last month fell 2.3 percent.
Realtors estimate that housing start and completion rates need to be in a range of 1.5 million to 1.6 million units per month to plug the inventory gap.
The stock of housing under construction slipped 0.5 percent to 1.121 million units. Single-family homes under construction last month dipped 0.2 percent to 515,000 units.