S&P 500 notches record close after strong earnings from Facebook and Apple

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DCLA's Sarat Sethi breaks down Apple and Facebook's big earnings beats
DCLA's Sarat Sethi breaks down Apple and Facebook's big earnings beats

The S&P 500 closed at record levels on Thursday after blowout earnings results from two of the biggest tech companies in the world: Apple and Facebook.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average ended the day up 239.98 points, or 0.7%, at 34,060.36. The S&P 500 advanced just under 0.7% to finish the day at 4,211.47, a new closing high.

The tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite, which began the day up 1%, underperformed with a gain of just over 0.2% to end the session at 14,082.55.

Apple, which reported earnings yesterday afternoon, said that sales jumped 54% during the quarter, with each product category seeing double-digit growth. The company also said it would increase its dividend by 7%, and authorized $90 billion in share buybacks. Still, Apple shares ended the day just under the flatline.

"The primary market trend remains positive," said Keith Lerner, chief market strategist at Truist. "But we expect a choppier environment as tensions are set to persist between better economic growth and earnings prospects versus the potential for higher taxes and rising interest rates as the economy normalizes," he added.

Thursday marks President Joe Biden's 100th day in office. On Wednesday evening, he made his first address to a joint session of Congress where he pushed his so-far popular agenda, which includes a $2 trillion infrastructure plan as well as a freshly unveiled, $1.8 trillion plan for families, children and students.

Thursday is also the busiest day of the quarterly earnings season, with roughly 11% of the S&P 500 slated to provide quarterly updates.

McDonald's published its results before the opening bell and told investors that its sales have finally topped pre-pandemic levels. The Dow component also raised its outlook for systemwide sales growth. The stock added 1.2% at the close.

Caterpillar, which also reported on Thursday, lost 2% while Merck dropped 4.4% following disappointing results. Amazon issued its first-quarter results shortly after market close. The e-commerce giant surpassed analysts' expectations on earnings and revenue.

Gilead Sciences, Twitter, U.S. Steel and Western Digital will also post results after the bell.

Facebook's revenue jumped 48%, driven by higher-priced ads, sending its stock up 7.3% and to a record. Qualcomm shares added 4.4% after reporting a 52% jump in revenue.

Economic data released Thursday gave investors an update on the progress of the economic recovery.

Here's a possible timeline for Fed tapering, according to Wall Street
Here's a possible timeline for Fed tapering, according to Wall Street

First-quarter GDP hit an annualized rate of 6.4%, according to a report published by the Bureau of Economic Analysis, a sign that the U.S. economy began 2021 with an acceleration of commercial activity. Outside of the reopening-fueled third-quarter surge last year, it was the best period for GDP since the third quarter of 2003.

The Labor Department, meanwhile, reported that initial jobless claims last week totaled 553,000, just above the 528,000 estimate issued by Dow Jones.

The Federal Reserve said Wednesday that it would hold interest rates near zero. The S&P slid from its high after Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell said during a press conference following the Federal Open Market Committee's decision that there are some signs of froth in the market.

"Rates remain unchanged for now and, despite improving economic data, taper talk remained off the table at today's Federal Reserve meeting," said Bethany Payne, portfolio manager at Janus Henderson.

"As vaccination rates accelerate, employment strengthens, and expansive fiscal policy adds further support to household and business incomes, investors are now looking for signs of whether the central bank safety net could be withdrawn sooner than expected," she added.

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