Stock Market Today: Nasdaq notches closing record for first time since 2021

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Stock Market Today: Nasdaq notches closing record for first time since 2021
Credit: © Reuters. The Nasdaq on Thursday closed at record highs for the first time since 2021, as the artificial-intelligence-led rally continued and an in-line inflation report boosted hopes of a summer interest rate cut. 

By 16:00 ET (21:00 GMT), the S&P 500 rose 0.4% to close at a record of 5,092.21, and NASDAQ Composite climbed 0.7% to also close at record of 16,091.92.  Both benchmarks their best monthly returns since November.  The  Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 46 points, 0.1%. 

Fed's preferred inflation gauge meets economists' expectations 

The personal consumption expenditures (PCE) price index rose 0.3% last month, and 2.4% in the 12 months through January. That was the smallest year-on-year increase since February 2021 and followed a 2.6% advance in December, easing investor concerns that sticky inflation will see the Fed keep interest rates at elevated levels for longer.

Treasury yields fell on the news, though losses were kept in check by data showing personal income, which includes earnings, property income as well as other benefits, jumped 1% on the month in January, suggesting the consumer spending is likely to continue. 

In another positive development for rate-cut hopes, jobless claims rose 13,000 in the week ended Feb. 17, above economists estimates for an 8,000 increase. 

Retailers deliver mixed performance on earnings stage 

Best Buy (NYSE: BBY ) stock rose more than 1% after the electronics retailer posted a smaller drop in fourth-quarter sales than expected and beat profit estimates, benefiting from holiday deals for big-ticket purchases and growth in paid memberships.

Bath & Body Works (NYSE: BBWI ) stock fell 5% after the specialty retailer forecast annual sales and profit below analysts' expectations as consumers scaled back spending on non-essential items like candles and fragrances.

Enterprise software companies shine, but Snowflake bulls melt after guidance falls short, HP (NYSE: HPQ ) falters

Salesforce Inc (NYSE: CRM ), up 3%, rolled out its first-ever quarterly dividend and boosted it buyback program offsetting full-year guidance that fell short of analyst estimates. Some on Wall Street believe customer relationship software maker is poised to take advantage of the artificial-intelligence boom, paving the way for increased market share. 

"We believe this is a major land grab opportunity that could significantly benefit CRM over the coming years and could increase overall revenue by $4 billion+ annually based on our estimates and field work by 2025," Wedbush said in a note. 

Okta Inc (NASDAQ: OKTA ) jumped 22% after the digital security company issued strong guidance for the current quarter following fourth-quarter results that topped Wall Street estimates.

Snowflake (NYSE: SNOW ) fell 18% after announcing that its CEO Frank Slootman had retired and the cloud data analytics company forecast first-quarter product revenue below Wall Street estimates, pressured by rising competition. Still, Macquaries said the sell off represent buying opportunity, upgrading Snowflake to outperform amid AI-led optimism. 

Snowflake has "cleared the decks with its lower guidance, but we think its strong product and sales organization mitigate C-suite uncertainty," Macquarie said in a note.

HP (NYSE:HPQ) fell nearly 1% after its quarterly revenue missed estimates, driven by weaker personal computing demand as enterprise customers push back upgrades. 

Lawmakers make progress on efforts to avoid government shutdown 

The U.S. House of representatives backed a bill to avert a partial government shutdown, sending the legislative measure to a vote the Senate. Should the stopgap funding bill, which aims to extend government funding for one week, clear the upper chamber, it will be sent to President Joe Biden's desk to sign into law ahead of the midnight Friday deadline.

(Peter Nurse, Ambar Warrick contributed to this article.)

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