The S&P 500 rose on Wednesday and the blue-chip Dow hit a record high after tepid consumer price data for February calmed inflation worries and Congress gave final approval to one of the largest economic stimulus measures in U.S. history. A rotation into sectors such as energy and financials continued, both in small- and large-cap stocks, as investors bet on consumer spending when the U.S. economy reopens. They sold the big tech names that have fueled the rally since last March. An expected economic surge once the coronavirus vaccines are rolled out along with the monster fiscal stimulus have triggered inflation fears and a spike in Treasury yields, leading the Nasdaq to tumble as much as 12% from its Feb. 12 record close. The Nasdaq closed lower in choppy trade after logging its best single-day percentage jump in four months on Tuesday. But an auction of $38 billion in benchmark 10-year Treasury notes was not as bad as feared as underlying inflation remained muted, helping push yields down to a session low of 1.506%, compared to 1.61% earlier this week. The "market seemed nonplussed and Treasuries rallied but that didn't seem to give a boost to tech (stocks)," said Mark Luschini, chief investment strategist at Janney Montgomery Scott. Rising yields have weighed on technology shares as they rely on cheap funding for growth. Investors are shifting funds from tech stocks with lofty valuations to other groups, such as energy and financials, that are undervalued and more of a play on an improving economy in a post-COVID world than big tech is, said Peter Tuz, president of Chase Investment Counsel in Charlottesville, Virginia. "It is occurring in fits and starts," Tuz said. "That is essentially the overwhelming theme in the market right now and it probably will continue until these things run their course." The move away from Apple Inc, Amazon.com Inc, Facebook Inc, Tesla Inc and Microsoft Corp, all down on the day, helped small-cap stocks rise more than double the gains of the S&P 500. Also helping lift equities are rising estimates for U.S. corporate profitability this year following surprisingly strong fourth-quarter earnings and growing optimism about the recovery. The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 464.28 points, or 1.46%, to 32,297.02, the S&P 500 gained 23.37 points, or 0.60%, to 3,898.81 and the Nasdaq Composite dropped 4.99 points, or 0.04%, to 13,068.83. Volume on U.S. exchanges was 13.82 billion shares, compared with the 15.155 billion average for the full session over the last 20 trading days. Shares of Roblox Corp closed up 54% in its New York Stock Exchange trading debut, valuing the U.S. gaming company at about $45 billion and making it one of the most active stocks on the NYSE. The sweeping $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill passed by the U.S. House of Representatives gave President Joe Biden his first major victory in office. Some of the $1,400 in payments heading to most Americans could end up in the stock market and could provide a boost for GameStop and other stocks popular among retail investors active in online social media forums. Trading in GameStop gyrated wildly after multiple NYSE trading halts as shares of the video game retailer and other so-called meme stocks approached levels last seen during their late January rally. It closed up 7.3%. Among other "meme" stocks, Koss Corp soared, closing up nearly 70%. Advancing issues outnumbered declining ones on the NYSE by a 2.97-to-1 ratio; on Nasdaq, a 1.79-to-1 ratio favored advancers. The S&P 500 posted 51 new 52-week highs and no new lows; the Nasdaq Composite recorded 329 new highs and 19 new lows. REUTERS
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