S&P 500, Dow gain on boost from Cisco; investors assess Fed minutes

By Amruta Khandekar and Shristi Achar A

(Reuters) – The S&P 500 and Dow rose on Thursday after upbeat results from Cisco, while investors assessed minutes of the U.S. Federal Reserve’s last policy meeting which showed most officials held a hawkish view on interest rates.

Cisco Systems gained 4.6% after the networking equipment maker’s fourth-quarter results beat estimates, and its CEO talked up artificial intelligence opportunities.

U.S. stocks had ended lower on Wednesday as the Fed minutes fueled worries the central bank could tighten monetary policy further, after recent data on retail sales and industrial production highlighted resilience in the U.S. economy.

Minutes of the Fed July 25-26 meeting showed most policymakers continued to prioritize the battle against inflation, while few participants cited risks to the economy if rates were pushed too high.

“There’s reason to continue to have another interest rate increase from here and then holding that longer than the market expects to,” said Thomas Martin, senior portfolio manager at Globalt Investments.

Underscoring strength in the labor market and diminishing hopes for a pause in policy tightening, initial weekly jobless claims fell to 239,000 in the previous week, compared with expectations of 240,000.

Traders’ bets on a rate hike pause from the Fed in September slipped to 86.5% from about 89% a week earlier, according to CME Group’s Fedwatch tool.

The yield on 10-year Treasury notes hit a fresh 10-month high on Thursday while that on the two-year Treasury note, which best reflects short-term rate expectations, edged lower to 4.94%.

Walmart added 0.6% after the retail giant raised its full-year forecasts and beat estimates for second-quarter sales, suggesting consumer demand in the U.S. remained strong.

Walmart results follow stronger-than-expected earnings from Target and Home Depot earlier this week, marking an upbeat second quarter for major U.S. retailers.

CVS Health Corp fell 8.5% on news that Blue Shield of California plans to drop the company as its pharmacy benefit manager and instead work with Amazon, sending its shares up 0.2%.

Major health insurers UnitedHealth and Cigna fell 1.1% and 5.6%, respectively.

The S&P 500 health sector, down 0.2%, was among the few major sectors in the red. Energy shares were the top gainers, up nearly 2%.

At 9:52 a.m. ET, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 66.38 points, or 0.19%, at 34,832.12, the S&P 500 was up 5.88 points, or 0.13%, at 4,410.21, and the Nasdaq Composite was down 11.51 points, or 0.09%, at 13,463.12.

Shares of Ball Corp climbed 2.7% after Britain’s BAE Systems agreed to buy the beer can supplier’s aerospace assets for about $5.55 billion.

Advancing issues outnumbered decliners by a 1.91-to-1 ratio on the NYSE and by a 1.16-to-1 ratio on the Nasdaq.

The S&P index recorded one new 52-week high and 12 new lows, while the Nasdaq recorded 11 new highs and 95 new lows.

(Reporting by Amruta Khandekar and Shristi Achar A in Bengaluru; Editing by Vinay Dwivedi)