S&P 500 inches higher, but on track for February loss amid Fed jitters

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S&P 500 inches higher, but on track for February loss amid Fed jitters
Credit: © Reuters.

By Yasin Ebrahim

Investing.com – The S&P 500 inched higher Tuesday, but remains on course to end February in the red as jitters about higher for longer interest rates rattled investor sentiment.

The S&P 500 was up 0.13%, the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 0.44%, or 145 points, the Nasdaq Composite was up 0.48%.

Tech, which is down nearly 5% from its peak earlier this month, continued to attract dip-buying activity, with Meta leading big tech higher.

Meta Platforms (NASDAQ: META ) rallied more than 3%, building on gains from a day earlier when the social media giant said it created a new product team to work on building generative AI tools to integrate into its products.

Zoom Video Communications (NASDAQ: ZM ) was up 2% after the video conferencing platform reported quarterly results that beat Wall Street expectations on both the top and bottom lines, driven by growth in its enterprise segment.

Zoom’s guidance on revenue, however, fell short of estimates, prompting some on Wall Street to remain on the sidelines.

“While we view the guide as increasingly de-risked, we would prefer to see revenue re-acceleration via Online stabilization and an improving Enterprise mix (via Phone/Contact Center) before becoming more constructive,” Goldman Sachs said in a note.

Elsewhere on the earnings front, meanwhile, Target Corporation (NYSE: TGT ) rose 2% following better-than-expected fourth-quarter results , though its annual guidance missed estimates keeping a lid on gains.

“[W]e're planning our business cautiously in the near term to ensure we remain agile and responsive to the current operating environment," said Target chief executive Brian Cornell. 

Advance Auto Parts Inc (NYSE: AAP ) was also in the ascendency, rising more than 3% after its Q4 results topped analysts’ forecasts, though the automotive aftermarket parts company struck a cautious tone on the year ahead.

“As we begin the year, we remain cautious surrounding the macroeconomic backdrop, including the potential for ongoing pressure on low to middle income consumers,” said Advance Auto Parts CEO Tom Greco.

On the economic front, meanwhile, consumer confidence in February fell to its lowest reading since November, pointing to signs strong consumer spending, which has underpinned strong growth so far this year, may be starting to slow.

“The data today continue to show that the Fed's job is very tough. Consumers are only just barely starting to reign in their spending plans, but they still see good strength in the labor market,” Jefferies said in a note.

The broader market’s slip in February was pressured by a surge in rates as strong economic data forced investors to play catch-up and price in further Fed rate hikes.

Investors will likely have to contend with choppy market activity in the weeks ahead amid inflation data, Fed policy, and geopolitical uncertainty, that will continue to be the drivers “over the short run,” Janney Montgomery Scott said.

“The trading range for the S&P 500 still looks to be within 3850 - 3950 support and 4100 - 4200 resistance over the next few weeks in our opinion,” it added.

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