S&P 500 hits fresh record high as Target leads retail shares higher, Dow rises 100 points

Stocks rose slightly on Wednesday, with the S&P 500 notching a fresh record, as strong quarterly results from Target lifted the broader retail sector. 

The S&P 500 climbed 0.1% and the Dow Jones Industrial Average advanced 114 points, or 0.4%. The Nasdaq Composite was down 0.3%, however. 

Here’s what traders were watching Wednesday:

  • Target shares jumped 8.8% after the retailer reported soaring profit and sales last quarter. Digital sales increased by 197% from a year ago.
  • Lowe’s shares gained 1.6% after the home improvement retailer reported a 30% surge in second-quarter revenue.
  • Coronavirus cases in the U.S. are trending lower, but officials are cautious as students begin returning to school and college campuses. Some colleges have been forced to change to all online learning because of outbreaks.
  • Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin criticized Democratic leaders as unwilling to discuss a smaller relief package on Tuesday; however, Politico reported House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said she is was willing to cut some demands to get an agreement on the bill. 

On Tuesday, the S&P 500 rose to its highest level ever, gaining back all of the index’s coronavirus-related losses. The 500-stock average rose 0.2% to a record close of 3,389.78.

It also traded above its Feb. 19 intraday record of 3,393.52 earlier in the trading day. The S&P has rallied more than 54% from its March low, bringing an end to the shortest bear market in U.S. history. 

The Nasdaq Composite also notched a record on Tuesday, while the Dow Jones Industrial Average struggled.

“Reaching a new all-time high may be a quickly forgotten speed bump in an ongoing new bull market, but if not substantially passed in the coming weeks, it could also prove to be a nagging glass ceiling that will continue to perpetuate fears this really is just a big bear market rally,” Jim Paulsen, chief investment strategist at the Leuthold Group, told CNBC. “Bulls need to ask whether the stock market may finally be getting ahead of its fundamentals while bears are forced to ask whether they are too underweighted in what could be just the beginning of a new bull market.”

Closely watched chip stock Nvidia reports quarterly results after the market close on Wednesday.

Investors are still eyeing a second coronavirus stimulus bill from Washington. The Federal Open Market Committee will publish its meeting minutes from its July meeting on Wednesday at 2 p.m. ET. 

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