US stocks charge to new records on strong bank profits, retail sales

·3-min read
Bank of America reported a doubling of first-quarter profits, joining other large US banks in releasing blowout results

US stocks hit fresh records on Thursday, supported by buoyant economic data and a strong start to the earnings season, while European equities shrugged off news of weaker growth expectations in Germany.

A drop in new weekly US jobless claims to 576,000 -- the lowest since the pandemic began -- helped bolster sentiment.

And retail sales surged 9.8 percent in March compared to the prior month, as Americans spent more in restaurants and on sporting goods, gardening equipment and cars as coronavirus vaccines became more widespread.

Gregory Daco of Oxford Economics called the retail sales figures "remarkable."

"With fresh stimulus checks in hand, consumers took advantage of warmer weather and increased vaccinations to splurge at car dealerships, shopping malls, restaurants, and home improvement stores," Daco said in a note.

The Dow jumped 0.9 percent to finish above 34,000 for the first time, while the S&P 500 also closed at a fresh record.

The records came as Citigroup and Bank of America joined the parade of large banks reporting at least a doubling of quarterly profits on strong trading results and large reserve releases amid the improving macroeconomic outlook.

"Across the board, the banks surprised to the upside," said Quincy Krosby, chief market strategist at Prudential Financial.

The results followed the opening of the US earnings season on Wednesday, when JPMorgan Chase, Goldman Sachs and Wells Fargo all offered upbeat appraisals of the US economy.

"It's nice to not only see good earnings, but optimistic views going forward, which is very important this particular reporting season," said JJ Kinahan at TD Ameritrade.

In Europe, which is struggling with renewed lockdowns and slow vaccine rollouts amid rising Covid cases, leading research institutes said German economic growth will be weaker than expected in 2021.

Germany's gross domestic product will expand by 3.7 percent this year, according to five economic think tanks, revising down more optimistic predictions by one percentage point.

Frankfurt's DAX 30 closed the day with a gain of 0.3 percent. Paris rose 0.4 percent and London climbed 0.6 percent as it closed in on the 7,000 level for the first time since February 2020.

Traders are also keeping an eye on developments in the pandemic crisis as infections in some countries surge and vaccine programs have been dealt a blow by blood clot concerns over the Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca jabs.

- Key figures around 2040 GMT -

New York - Dow: UP 0.9 percent at 34,035.99 (close)

New York - S&P 500: UP 1.1 percent at 4,170.42 (close)

New York - Nasdaq: UP 1.3 percent at 14,038.76 (close)

London - FTSE 100: UP 0.6 percent at 6,983.50 (close)

Paris - CAC 40: UP 0.4 percent at 6,234.14 (close)

Frankfurt - DAX 30: UP 0.3 percent at 15,255.33 (close)

EURO STOXX 50: UP 0.4 percent at 3,993.43 (close)

Tokyo - Nikkei 225: UP 0.1 percent at 29,642.69 (close)

Hong Kong - Hang Seng Index: DOWN 0.4 percent at 28,793.14 (close)

Shanghai - Composite: DOWN 0.5 percent at 3,398.99 (close)

Euro/dollar: DOWN at $1.1966 from $1.1980 at 2100 GMT

Pound/dollar: UP at $1.3784 from $1.3779

Euro/pound: DOWN at 86.81 pence from 86.94 pence

Dollar/yen: DOWN at 108.72 yen from 108.93 yen

Brent North Sea crude: UP 0.5 percent at $66.94 per barrel

West Texas Intermediate: UP 0.5 percent at $63.46 per barrel