The major domestic equity indexes edged up to post record closing highs on Wednesday with sector moves in the S&P 500 showing preference toward so-called defensive stocks.
While Wall Street reaction was muted to minutes of the most recent Federal Reserve policy meeting, a report that a market-friendly candidate was being pushed as successor to Janet Yellen at the helm of the Fed helped indexes close near the highs of the day.
Real estate, utilities, and consumer staples were among S&P 500 sectors that posted gains, while financials were pressured by a slip in Treasury yields and industrials were also lower.
Federal Reserve policymakers had a prolonged debate about the prospects of a pickup in inflation during their September meeting, but many policymakers still felt that another rate increase this year “was likely to be warranted.”
Stocks ended near session highs after a report from Politico said Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin was pushing president Donald Trump to name Jerome Powell, seen as a safe pick for financial markets, as the next Federal Reserve chairman.
Gains in Wal-Mart and Johnson & Johnson nudged the Dow Jones Industrial Average to another record high but declines in financials kept gains on the S&P 500 in check.
Johnson & Johnson rose 2.1 percent to $136.65 after Jefferies upgraded the stock to “buy,” saying the company’s pharma division would help it top analysts’ profit estimates.
The consumer staples sector benefitted from gains in Wal-Mart, which rose 1.9 percent, as well as from Kroger, which ended the trading day up 1.2 percent to $20.78 after news it was exploring the sale of its nearly 800 convenience stores.
Banks take the focus as JPMorgan Chase and Citigroup report results on Thursday, with analysts warning that results in the sector will largely be held back by low trading volumes compared with a year earlier.
With the S&P 500 up 14 percent in 2017, investors are betting on strong earnings growth across the S&P 500.
General Electric fell 1.2 percent to $23.07 after JPMorgan said a dividend cut was “increasingly likely” and lowered its price target on the stock.
Approximately 5.67 billion shares changed hands on the major domestic equity exchanges, as compared to the 6.1 billion share daily average over the past 20 sessions.