Wall St. back in black as Russell 2000 hits record

(Reuters) – Retail and technology stocks led Wall Street back to positive territory on Wednesday, and the small-cap Russell 2000 hit a new intra-day high, even as traders remained on edge about geopolitics and rising U.S. interest rates.

FILE PHOTO: Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York, U.S., May 2, 2018. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

Smaller companies continued to outperform their larger rivals with the Russell 2000 reaching a record level. The index was last up 1.3 percent.

“Small caps present a cleaner play than large caps on two fundamental market drivers: lower corporate taxes and a stronger US economy,” research firm DataTrek wrote in its morning briefing on Wednesday.

Macy’s (M.N) shares were up 11.2 percent after beating analyst estimates and raising guidance. The S&P 500 Department Store index .SPLRCRETD was up 5.4 percent, its largest daily gain in nearly six months.

Rival department stores J.C. Penney (JCP.N), Kohl’s (KSS.N), Nordstrom (JWN.N) and Target Corp (TGT.N) were also boosted by the results.

Macy’s earnings pushed the consumer discretionary sector higher on Wednesday, a day after government data showing an acceleration of consumer spending fanned inflation concerns and helped send U.S. government bond yields higher.

Yields on U.S. Treasuries were little changed with 10-year bonds near a 7-year peak, continuing to pressure stocks as investors consider whether U.S. bonds pose a more attractive option to riskier equities.

“I think bonds are almost becoming an attractive alternative to equities,” said David Carter chief investment officer, Lenox Wealth Advisors in New York. “Not yet, in our opinion, but as yields continue to rise, we may get there soon.”

Weeks of diplomatic progress were thrown into doubt when North Korea postponed high-level talks with Seoul and threatened to pull out of its historic meeting with the United States.

The uncertainty compounded investor jitters ahead of United States-China trade negotiations.

“Tweets and tariffs are making the market a little uncomfortable and uncertain,” Carter said. “It doesn’t help markets, but it’s not necessarily knocking them down.”

On the economic front, housing starts fell 3.7 percent in April while new housing permits declined 1.8 percent, according to the Commerce Department.

At 2:17PM ET, the Dow Jones Industrial Average .DJI rose 92.55 points, or 0.37 percent, to 24,798.96, the S&P 500 .SPX gained 14.99 points, or 0.55 percent, to 2,726.44 and the Nasdaq Composite .IXIC added 57.40 points, or 0.78 percent, to 7,409.03.

Of the 11 major sectors of the S&P 500, only rate-sensitive utilities .SPLRCU and real estate .SPLRCR stocks were in negative territory.

Micron (MU.O) rose 4.6 percent after RBC Capital Markets initiated coverage of the chipmaker with an “outperform” rating.

The Philadelphia SE semiconductor index .SOX was up 1.3 percent.

Facebook (FB.O) shares were the biggest drag on the S&P 500, down 0.6 percent, on news that Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg would appear before members of the European Parliament to answer questions about the improper use of users’ data.

3M Co (MMM.N), was the biggest drag on the Dow, slipping -0.7 percent after Jefferies downgraded the stock to “hold.”

Advancing issues outnumbered declining ones on the NYSE by a 2.30-to-1 ratio; on the Nasdaq, a 2.62-to-1 ratio favored advancers.

Reporting by Stephen Culp; Editing by Steve Orlofsky

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