Nasdaq eyes record closing high as Powell testimony looms

(Reuters) -The Nasdaq was on pace for a record closing high on Tuesday, as investors anticipated Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell’s remarks for clues on how the central bank is balancing inflation risk with its promise to ensure a full jobs market recovery.

FILE PHOTO: The front facade of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) is seen in New York, U.S., February 12, 2021. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

Amazon.com Inc, up 1.3%, was among the top boosts to S&P 500 and the Nasdaq, as it entered the second day of its multibillion-dollar online sales event, Prime Day. The retail giant saw over $5.6 billion in total online sales in the United States on the first day, according to Adobe Digital Economy Index.[nFWN2O40KI]

In his prepared remarks released late Monday afternoon, Powell reiterated that recent high inflation was expected to prove temporary. The Fed chief is due to speak before Congress at 2 p.m. ET (1800 GMT).

“Powell has already put a stamp on where he thinks things should be. I don’t think he’s going to deviate much,” said Paul Nolte, portfolio manager at Kingsview Asset Management in Chicago.

Nine of the 11 major S&P sectors rose, with consumer discretionary and materials rising the most.

Gains in tech heavyweights including Apple Inc, Amazon.com, Nvidia and Microsoft were among the biggest support for the S&P 500, bringing the benchmark index less than 0.5% of its record high.

Still, energy, financials and other economically sensitive stocks that stand to benefit the most from a U.S. re-opening, have far outpaced the benchmark S&P 500 and the blue-chip Dow indexes year-to-date.

“We’re still on the value side of the camp. If inflation persists, we expect the value part of the market to outperform,” Nolte said.

At 11:35 a.m. ET, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 48.63 points, or 0.14%, at 33,925.60, the S&P 500 was up 15.28 points, or 0.36%, at 4,240.07, and the Nasdaq Composite was up 61.45 points, or 0.43%, at 14,202.93.

Crypto stocks including miners Riot Blockchain, Marathon Patent Group, Ebang International and MicroStrategy Inc fell between 2% and 5% as Bitcoin slipped below $30,000 for the first time since January, briefly wiping out gains for the year.

Sanderson Farms jumped 10.4% to a record high as J.P. Morgan raised its price target on the stock after a source told Reuters that the chicken producer was exploring a sale.

Moderna Inc rose 4.4% after the European Union decided to take up an option under a supply contract with the drugmaker that allows the bloc to order 150 million additional COVID-19 vaccines.

Splunk Inc gained 12.2% after the data analytics software maker said private equity firm Silver Lake invested $1 billion in company’s convertible senior notes.

Declining issues outnumbered advancers for a 1.17-to-1 ratio on the NYSE and for a 1.57-to-1 ratio on the Nasdaq.

The S&P index recorded 22 new 52-week highs and one new low, while the Nasdaq recorded 46 new highs and 42 new lows.

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