Stock market today: Wall Street is mixed as higher yields keep biting

NEW YORK (AP) — Wall Street is holding a bit steadier Thursday, and stocks are mixed following some encouraging profit reports from big companies.

The S&P 500 was up 0.2% in early trading, trimming its slump for August. The Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 72 points, or 0.2%, at 34,837, as of 9:55 a.m. Eastern time, and the Nasdaq composite was 0.1% lower.

Cisco Systems helped lead the way and rose 4.4%. It reported stronger profit and revenue for the latest quarter than analysts expected.

Walmart did as well, while also raising its forecast for full-year results. Its stock rose a more modest 0.5%.

They helped offset a 9.3% drop for CVS Health. Blue Shield of California is planning to drop CVS Caremark as pharmacy-benefits manager, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Stocks broadly have been retreating in August following a torrid first seven months of the year. That’s in part because a swift rise in bond yields is forcing a reassessment of how much to pay for stocks.

The 10-year Treasury, which is the centerpiece of the bond market, is now yielding 4.29% after touching its highest level since October earlier in the morning.

If it reaches 4.34%, it will be at a level unseen since 2007, according to Tradeweb. That’s before the financial crisis and Great Recession caused yields to collapse to record lows.

Higher yields are good for bond investors, who get fatter payouts for their investments. But it hurts stock prices because investors are suddenly less inclined to pay high prices for them and other investments that aren’t as steady as bonds.

Yields have been on the rise as more reports show the U.S. economy remains remarkably resilient. On the upside for markets, the data means the economy has so far been able to avoid a long-predicted recession. But on the downside, it could also keep upward pressure on inflation, which means the Federal Reserve may feel the need to keep interest rates higher for longer.

More data came in Thursday showing a firm U.S. economy.

Fewer workers applied for unemployment benefits last week than economists expected. It’s the latest signal that the job market continues to be solid. And a survey of manufacturers in the mid-Atlantic region unexpectedly showed growth, when economists were expecting another month of contraction.

“The labor market continues to be resilient—maybe too resilient for the Fed’s liking,” said Mike Loewengart, head of model portfolio construction at Morgan Stanley Global Investment Office.

Other strong economic data recently, including a report showing an acceleration in sales growth at U.S. retailers, means the Fed could hike interest rates again at some point, he said. Hopes had been rising on Wall Street that the Fed could be done after it raised its main rate last month to the highest level in more than two decades.

Traders have also been hoping the Fed will begin cutting rates early next year. Such a move would be a relief for markets because high rates work by slowing the entire economy and hurting prices for investments.

Minutes from the Fed’s latest meeting released Wednesday suggested that board members are unsure of their next moves. They say it will depend on what reports about inflation and the job market say.

Inflation has slowed significantly since the central bank started its rate-raising campaign a year-and-a-half ago, but with consumer prices up 3.2% year-over-year, it’s still higher than the Fed’s target of 2%.

In stock markets abroad, indexes fell across most of Europe and Asia.

Worries about a faltering economic recovery in China have weighed on stocks in Hong Kong and Shanghai in particular recently, though they were steadier Thursday.


AP Business Writers Matt Ott and Joe McDonald contributed.