Dow Ekes Out a Record Closing High as Tame Inflation Soothes Investor Concerns

Adam Jeffery | CNBC

The Dow Jones Industrial Average climbed slightly to a record on Wednesday as investors digested a new batch of corporate earnings as well as data showing subdued inflation.

The 30-stock benchmark finished the volatile session 61.97 points higher, or 0.2%, to a record closing high of 31,437.80. At its low of the day, the blue-chip average fell 150 points. The S&P 500 dipped less than 0.1% to 3,909.88, while the Nasdaq Composite slid 0.3% to 13,972.53 as Amazon, Microsoft and Apple all suffered losses. The S&P 500 and the Nasdaq both touched all-time highs during the session.

The U.S. consumer price index rose 0.3% in January, matching expectations from economists polled by Dow Jones. The core consumer price index, which excludes volatile food and energy costs, was unchanged last month.

"One of the concerns is that inflation will start to take hold due to so much monetary and fiscal stimulus, which will cause the Treasury and the Fed to intervene," said Keith Buchanan, senior portfolio manager at Globalt. "Any news indicates that inflation will be lower for longer will delay that potential reaction to pull some of the stimulus back."

Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell said Wednesday monetary policy needs to stay "patiently accommodative" to support the economy that still faces challenges in the labor market. The employment picture is "a long way" from where it needs to be, the central bank chief told the Economic Club of New York.

Under Armour jumped more than 8% after reporting a surprise profit for the holiday quarter as sales were boosted by strong digital growth. Twitter popped 13.2% after the social media company beat Wall Street's earnings and revenue expectations.

More than 60% of the S&P 500 companies have reported quarterly earnings, and 83% of them topped Wall Street's earnings estimates, according to CNBC analysis.

Wall Street is having a strong February with the S&P 500 up more than 5% so far as investors remained optimistic about additional Covid-19 stimulus.

House Democrats unveiled the details of a relief proposal that included $1,400 direct checks with faster phase-outs than previous bills.  President Joe Biden and Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen met with CEOs of JPMorgan, Walmart and Gap Tuesday to discuss additional economic relief.

"Massive fiscal stimulus and an extremely accommodative Federal Reserve should keep equities moving higher," said Chris Zaccarelli, chief investment officer for Independent Advisor Alliance.

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