Wall Street gains amid Federal Reserve relief

The Nasdaq has risen more than 2.0 per cent to hit a near five-month intra-day high as Meta Platforms surged on rigorous cost controls while a dovish message from Federal Reserve chair Jerome Powell boosted bets of a softer landing for the US economy.

Meta Platforms Inc soared 21.1 per cent to a near eight-month high after the Facebook-parent announced a new $US40 billion ($A56 billion) share buyback and said it would cut costs in 2023 by $US5 billion to between $US89 billion and $US95 billion.

Shares of other growth companies including Apple Inc, Alphabet Inc and Amazon.com Inc rose between 2.2 per cent and 6.4 per cent.

The three companies are slated to report quarterly results after market close.

Five of the top 11 S&P 500 sectors advanced, with the communication services sector – which includes Meta and other growth stocks – jumping 5.6 per cent to its highest in five months.

“It certainly seems that markets are up because earnings for Meta were surprisingly positive,” said Sam Stovall, chief investment strategist at CFRA Research in New York.

“Investors are also encouraged by the fact that the Fed is sort of tempting that it’s done or close to being done with its rate tightening program.”

Wall Street’s main indexes got a boost in the previous session as Powell acknowledged that inflation was starting to ease after the US central bank raised rates by 25 basis points.

Powell’s comments relieved investors that a US recession, which has been widely priced in, will likely be mild.

Data showed the number of people in the US filing new claims for unemployment benefits unexpectedly fell last week to a nine-month low, highlighting the labour market’s resilience, ahead of non-farm payroll numbers on Friday.

After a bruising 2022, US stock markets have made a strong start to the year, with megacap companies gaining on hopes that the Fed will ease its hawkish monetary policy stance, which in turn could alleviate some pressure off their valuations.

In early trading, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was down 185.50 points, or 0.54 per cent, at 33,907.46, the S&P 500 was up 34.99 points, or 0.85 per cent, at 4,154.20, and the Nasdaq Composite was up 253.10 points, or 2.14 per cent, at 12,069.42.

The Dow was dragged down by bleak earnings, with Honeywell International Inc down 2.4 per cent after posting a 28.6 per cent fall in quarterly profit.

Drug maker Merck & Co’s slid 2.7 per cent on a lower than expected annual forecast while Eli Lilly & Co dropped 5.2 per cent on missing quarterly revenue estimates.

Align Technology Inc surged 25.4 per cent to a nine-month high on its first quarterly results beat in a year.

As many as 70 per cent of nearly half of the S&P 500 firms that reported fourth-quarter earnings have topped Wall Street expectations.

Analysts now see earnings of S&P 500 firms declining 2.4 per cent for the quarter, according to Refinitiv estimates.

Advancing issues outnumbered decliners by a 2.06-to-1 ratio on the NYSE and by a 2.47-to-1 ratio on the Nasdaq.

The S&P index recorded 26 new 52-week highs and one new low while the Nasdaq posted 98 new highs and six new lows.

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