U.S. stocks are climbing Thursday after the Commerce Department said spending by U.S. consumers grew in July, along with wages and salaries. Health care companies are making some of the biggest gains, along with technology companies and retailers. Investors are also pleased with economic reports from Europe and China. Packaged food companies are slumping again after a weak quarterly report and disappointing guidance from Campbell Soup.
KEEPING SCORE: The Standard & Poor’s 500 index climbed 10 points, or 0.4 percent, to 2,467 as of 11:55 a.m. Eastern time. The Dow Jones industrial average rose 40 points, or 0.2 percent, to 21,933. The Nasdaq composite gained 46 points, or 0.7 percent, to 6,414, close to the record high it set in late July. The Russell 2000 index of smaller-company stocks picked up 13 points, or 1 percent, to 1,405.
The S&P 500 is down by a small amount in August, and September is typically the weakest month of the year for stocks. On average the S&P 500 falls about 0.5 percent in September.
ECONOMY VIEWS: The Commerce Department said consumer spending rose 0.3 percent in July, the best showing in three months, as wages and salaries increased. Stocks climbed a day ago after the government raised its estimate of second-quarter economic growth.
Elsewhere, inflation in the eurozone increased in August and a measurement of factory activity in China improved.
RETAIL RALLY: The consumer spending figures suggest Americans feel comfortable enough to spend more money, and consumer spending is responsible for about 70 percent of U.S. economic activity. That helped companies like online retailer Amazon, which gained $10.78, or 1.1 percent, to $978.37. Toy maker Hasbro rose $1.82, or 1.9 percent, to $97.10 and jewelry seller Tiffany increased $2.35, or 2.7 percent, to $90. Tool maker Stanley Black & Decker picked up $2.92, or 2.1 percent, to $142.70. Footwear retailer Shoe Carnival climbed $3.70, or 22.5 percent, to $20.12, after it posted a bigger profit and better sales than analysts expected.
HEALTHIER: Drugmaker Gilead Sciences rose to its highest price in more than a year as it moved up $1.82, or 2.2 percent, to $83.05, and health insurer Centene rose $1.75, or 2 percent, to $88.18. Scientific instrument maker Thermo Fisher gained $2.66, or 1.5 percent, to $185.61.
Technology companies rose for the fourth day in a row. Alphabet, Google’s parent company, gained $11.94, or 1.3 percent, to $955.57 and Microsoft picked up 66 cents to $74.67. Chipmaker Nvidia rose $2.72, or 1.6 percent, to $168.40.
WHO’S HUNGRY? Campbell Soup skidded to a two-year low after the company said it expects sales to keep falling over the next year as more people buy fresh foods instead of its canned soups and bottled juices. The company forecast a smaller-than-expected annual profit after it reported a weak fourth quarter that included disappointing sales of snack food. Its stock fell $3.28, or 6.5 percent, to $46.97. Competitor Mondelez dropped 67 cents, or 1.6 percent, to $40.96 and Kraft Heinz decreased $1, or 1.2 percent, to $80.93. All of those companies have seen their stocks tumble this year as Americans lose their appetite for packaged foods and seek fresher alternatives.
ENERGY: After three days of losses linked to Tropical Storm Harvey, benchmark U.S. crude jumped $1.22, or 2.7 percent, to $47.20 a barrel in New York as the rains hitting the Gulf Coast began to abate. Brent crude, used to price international oils, gained $1.76 cents, or 3.5 percent, to $52.49 a barrel in London. Wholesale gasoline prices soared another 11 cents.
DOLLAR DOUBTS: Discount retailer Dollar General reported a bigger profit and better sales than Wall Street expected, but it said rising discounts hurt its profit margins. The stock had rallied more than 10 percent since early July. On Thursday it fell $3.89, or 5.1 percent, to $72.84.
SCANDAL GROWS: The scope of Wells Fargo’s fake accounts scandal widened after the bank revealed that 3.5 million accounts may have been opened without customers’ permission between 2009 and 2016. That’s well above the 2.1 million such accounts the bank disclosed a year ago, and said employees may have opened the accounts because of pressure to meet aggressive sales targets. Wells Fargo stock declined 38 cents to $50.98.
BONDS: Bond prices were little changed. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note remained at 2.13 percent.
CURRENCIES: The dollar dipped to 110 yen from 110.36 yen. The euro rose to $1.1896 from $1.1890.
OVERSEAS: Germany’s DAX rose 0.4 percent and the French CAC 40 gained 0.6 percent. The British FTSE 100 advanced 0.9 percent. In Tokyo, the Nikkei 225 gained 0.7 percent and Hong Kong’s Hang Seng shed 0.4 percent and Seoul’s Kospi lost 0.4 percent.