S&P 500 gains in choppy trading ahead of Powell, Yellen remarks

(Reuters) – The S&P 500 rose in choppy trading on Tuesday as investors marked time ahead of remarks from Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell and Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen for clues about their tolerance for higher bond yields.

FILE PHOTO: People are seen on Wall St. outside the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York City, U.S., March 19, 2021. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

The S&P energy index slipped as oil prices slumped more than 3% on fears that new pandemic curbs and slow vaccine rollouts in Europe will slow a recovery in demand.

The U.S. equity market rallied on Monday as a slide in bond yields drove a move out of undervalued economy-linked banks and energy stocks and moved into tech-focused shares in a slight reversal of this year’s trend.

“We’ve seen a very quick movement in (yields) on mostly fears around inflation and the market is taking a pause here over the last week,” said Jon Adams, senior investment strategist at BMO Global Asset Management in Chicago.

The benchmark S&P 500 and the blue-chip Dow have rallied about 79% from their pandemic lows hit exactly a year ago, while the tech-heavy Nasdaq has doubled in value.

The CBOE volatility index eased to its lowest level in 13 months.

The top two U.S. economic officials, Powell and Yellen, are expected to assess a recovery that is evolving faster than expected but still facing risks from the coronavirus pandemic and inflation. Their congressional hearings begin at 12 p.m. ET (1600 GMT).

At 11:35 a.m. ET, the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 26.42 points, or 0.08% , to 32,704.78, the S&P 500 gained 5.38 points, or 0.14 %, to 3,945.97 and the Nasdaq Composite gained 1.40 points, or 0.01 %, to 13,378.94.

Financials, energy and industrials dropped about 1%, while tech and consumer discretionary provided the biggest boost to the S&P 500.

Shares of GameStop Corp dropped 3.4% ahead of its fourth-quarter results due after markets close. The videogame retailer announced the exit of its chief customer officer in the latest sign of a broader overhaul into an e-commerce firm.

ViacomCBS Inc tumbled about 8% after the media firm launched $3 billion stock deals to raise capital for investments in streaming.

U.S.-listed shares of Chinese internet search provider Baidu Inc slid 3% following a flat Hong Kong debut as investors were wary of a fundraising flurry in the city and questioned the company’s growth plans.

Declining issues outnumbered advancers by a 2.4-to-1 ratio on the NYSE and a 3.7-to-1 ratio on the Nasdaq.

The S&P 500 posted 11 new 52-week highs and no new lows, while the Nasdaq recorded 53 new highs and 86 new lows.

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