NEW YORK: Wall Street ended a choppy session higher on Thursday (Jan 26) as investors grappled with an onslaught of economic data and a string of mixed corporate earnings, all while eyeing the clock as it ticks down towards next week’s Federal Reserve (Fed) monetary policy meeting.

While all three major US stock indices advanced, megacap momentum stocks, buoyed by Tesla Inc’s earnings beat and upbeat sales forecast, helped put the Nasdaq in the lead.

A raft of data showed the US economy fared better in the fourth quarter than analysts expected, and the labour market remains tight, despite some signs of weakening demand. This is a double-edged sword for investors, as it could embolden the Fed to keep key interest rates at restrictive levels for longer.

While financial markets have largely priced in a 25 basis point rate from the central bank next Wednesday, that sentiment is not unanimous.

“The economic data had something in it for everybody; for the dreamers who think the economy is just slow enough to put the Fed on hold, and the pessimists who think growth is still too hot for the Fed to step away,” said David Carter, managing director at JPMorgan Private Bank in New York.

“Hope is not an investment strategy, and the economic facts could soon weigh on the market,” Carter added. “The biggest uncertainty is what will happen in the back half of this year.”

Fourth-quarter earnings season has hit full stride, with more than one fourth of the companies in the S&P 500 having reported. Of those, 69% have beaten consensus estimates, up from 67% on Wednesday, according to Refinitiv.

Analysts now see aggregate fourth quarter earnings falling 2.7%, worse than the 1.6% year-on-year decline seen on Jan 1, but an improvement over the 3% annual decline as of Wednesday, per Refinitiv.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 205.57 points, or 0.61%, to 33,949.41, the S&P 500 gained 44.21 points, or 1.10%, to 4,060.43 and the Nasdaq Composite added 199.06 points, or 1.76%, to 11,512.41.

Of the 11 major sectors of the S&P 500, all but consumer staples advanced. Energy led the percentage gainers, boosted by rising crude prices due to signs of increasing demand from China.

Tesla Inc provided one of the heftiest boosts to the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq, its shares jumping 11% in the wake of its earnings report.

Chevron Corp announced it would triple its budget for share buybacks, which sent the oil major’s stock up 4.9%.

Among losers, IBM Corp fell 4.5% in the wake of its announcement that it would cut jobs divest some assets after falling short of its annual cash target.

Shares of Bed Bath & Beyond Ink plunged 22.2% after the home goods retailer received a

default notice from JPMorgan Chase.

Southwest Airlines Co slid 3.2% after warning of current quarter losses.

Shares of Intel Corp dropped as much as 6% in extended trading after the company

posted revenue below Street expectations. – Reuters

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