Stocks Move Higher as Tech Gains Offset Weak Economic Data

(Reuters) -
stocks, markets, Wall Street

Stocks were higher in early afternoon trading on Monday as gains in technology stocks, led by Apple, more than offset weak economic data and pushed the Nasdaq to another record high.

Apple shares jumped as much as 2.1 percent to a record high of $146.68, boosting all the three major Wall Street indexes. Apple is due to report its results on Tuesday.

The S&P 500 technology index was up 0.66 percent, with Microsoft and Facebook also hitting all-time highs. Including the tech sector, five of the 11 major S&P 500 sectors were higher.

The other sectors were kept in check by weak construction spending and manufacturing data that came on the heels of weak first-quarter GDP data on Friday and ahead of the monthly jobs data at the end of this week.

U.S. Secretary of the Treasury Steve Mnuchin said it could take up to two years to have economic growth reach three percent and that tax cuts and regulatory relief would help get there.

Construction spending unexpectedly fell in March amid a pause in private construction investment after five straight months of increases.

Other data showed the ISM manufacturing activity index fell to its lowest level since December, while consumer spending was unchanged for a second straight month in March and a key inflation measure recorded its first monthly drop since 2001.

The industrials and materials indexes were little changed.

“The economic data today is causing some investor nervousness ahead of the jobs report this Friday,” said Matt Miskin, senior capital markets research analyst at John Hancock Investments in Boston.

“While we’re starting the week off on a bit of weak economic news, the markets may turn back to corporate fundamentals as corporate earnings are still coming in strong.”

At 12:30 p.m. ET, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 14.35 points, or 0.07 percent, at 20,954.86, dragged down by a one percent fall in Boeing.

The S&P 500 was up 6.5 points, or 0.27 percent, at 2,390.7 and the Nasdaq Composite was up 37.71 points, or 0.62 percent, at 6,085.32.

Trading volume is expected to be light, with many markets in Asia and Europe closed for Labor Day, but will pick up through the week as major earnings reports and economic data pour in.

Overall, profit at S&P 500 companies are estimated to have risen 13.6 percent in the first quarter, the most since 2011, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Tribune Media jumped 5.2 percent to $38.40 after Reuters reported Twenty-First Century Fox is in talks with Blackstone to buy the television station operator. Fox shares were down 0.7 percent at $30.33.

Diamond Offshore Drilling fell 2.9 percent to $14 after reporting a lower quarterly profit.

Advancing issues outnumbered decliners on the NYSE by 1,535 to 1,255. On the Nasdaq, 1,545 issues rose and 1,204 fell.

The S&P 500 index showed 38 new 52-week highs and 10 new lows, while the Nasdaq recorded 110 new highs and 43 new lows