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US: S&P 500 ends just shy of record high

Daria Bulanova, Analyst, Global Markets (Finam)

On Tuesday, March 26, US equities logged hefty gains, while the S&P 500 Index finished within just two points of its all-time high set in 2007. Investors focused on upbeat economic data, shrugging off those that missed expectations. Bullish sentiment was also stoked as Cyprus tensions abated.

In macro data, US durable goods order for February jumped 5.7%, while Wall Street had, on average, anticipated an increase of 3.8%. Meanwhile, housing market and consumer confidence figures turned out to be much less optimistic. Specifically, new home sales declined to 411,000 in February vs. forecasts of a contraction from 431,000 to just 422,000, while the Consumer Confidence Index slipped from 68 to 59.7 in March.

As for the indexes, the blue-chip benchmark Dow advanced 0.77% to 14,559.65, the broader market index S&P 500 added 0.77% to 1,563.77 and technology-heavy Nasdaq closed 0.53% higher at 3,252.48.

In commodities, NYMEX crude for May delivery jumped 1.6% to USD 96.34/bbl. COMEX gold futures for April delivery rose 0.5% to USD 1,595.70/oz. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note widened from 1.91% to 1.93%.

Bank plays moved broadly northward, with Citigroup and Wells Fargo advancing 0.8% and 0.3%, respectively, while Bank of America shares shed 1%. JPMorgan Chase shares, in turn, ticked up 0.2%. Among the gainers, American Express shares jumped 1.6%.

Other IT stocks saw gains, with IBM and Yahoo! adding 0.7% and 0.9%, respectively, while Intel shares surged 2.8%. Hewlett-Packard shares, in turn, advanced 2.4%. At the same time, Microsoft shares slipped 0.1%.

In other news, leading global stream-video provider Netflix added 5.4% to USD 190.61 after Pacific Crest Securities analysts raised their target price on the stock from USD 160 to USD 225.

The world’s leading seed producer Monsanto reached an agreement with DuPont as to withdraw patent suits. It should be noted that Monsanto shares finished 4.4% higher, while DuPont shares eased 0.3%.

An increase in oil futures pushed up oil majors Chevron and ExxonMobil by 0.7% and 1.3%, respectively.