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Stock market today: Wall Street edges back from its record heights

Associated Press - Mon Feb 26, 11:07PM CST
South Korea Financial Markets

BANGKOK (AP) — Asian shares retreated on Tuesday after U.S. stocks edged back from their record heights.

Most regional markets fell, while Shanghai advanced. U.S. futures and oil prices were little changed.

Traders are growing cautious after the New Year's rally that has swept much of the world's markets.

“All in all, investors are taking a well-deserved breather to start the week,” Stephen Innes of SPI Asset Management said in a commentary. “This subdued tone suggests a moderation in investor sentiment following the recent tech-driven buying spree.”

Tokyo's Nikkei 225, which has twice breached records in recent days, was flat at 39,238.82. That was after the government reported that consumer prices rose 2.2% in January from the year before, less than the 2.6% rate in December, but above forecasts. That supported expectations that the Bank of Japan may soon make a shift in its longstanding ultra-lax monetary policy, which is underpinned by a minus 0.1% benchmark interest rate.

Chinese markets were mixed, with Hong Kong's Hang Seng falling 0.4% to 16,572.75 and the Shanghai Composite up 0.5% at 2,992.30.

South Korea's Kospi declined 0.4% to 2,635.96, while India's Sensex edged 0.1% lower. In Bangkok, the SET was down 0.2%.

On Monday, the S&P 500 slipped 0.4% to 5,069.53 after closing last week at an all-time high. The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 0.2% to 39,069.23, and the Nasdaq composite dipped 0.1% to 15,976.25.

Berkshire Hathaway was one of the heaviest weights on the market after famed investor Warren Buffet warned shareholders not to expect any more “eye-popping performance” because there are no bargains available in the market of big enough size to make a meaningful difference. Buffett is notorious for buying companies when they’re cheap.

Still, Buffett's company reported stronger results for the end of 2023 than analysts expected. Class-B shares of the company, whose subsidiaries include GEICO, Fruit of the Loom and Brooks running shoes, initially jumped more than 3% but later fell back to a loss of 1.9%.

Increasingly, analysts are warning that prices have soared too high.

The S&P 500 is on track to close out its fourth straight winning month and is coming off its 15th winning week in the last 17. And the stock market may not have been cheap even when it bottomed out in October 2022.

This recent rally got going last October amid hopes that inflation is cooling enough for the Federal Reserve to cut interest rates several times this year. Such cuts would relax the pressure on the economy and financial system, while goosing investment prices.

Expectations are still high for rate cuts to come eventually this year, but traders have been delaying their forecasts following some stronger-than-expected reports on the economy. That data in the meantime raises hopes that growth in profits for companies can strengthen, which helps stock prices too.

Last week, stocks got a big boost after another blowout report from Nvidia put more chum into the frenzy around artificial-intelligence technology. Nvidia, whose chips help power AI technologies, rose another 0.3% Monday, and it’s already up nearly 60% so far this year.

Earnings reporting season for the big companies in the S&P 500 is in its tail end, but this week still offers updates from several big names. They include several that could give color on how well spending by U.S. households is holding up. Such spending has been one of the main reasons the U.S. economy has blasted through expectations for a possible recession.

Best Buy, Lowe’s and TJX, the parent company of T.J. Maxx and Marshalls, will all report this week. So will several big tech-related companies, including Salesforce.com and HP.

On the economic calendar, the U.S. government on Thursday will give the latest update on the measure of inflation that the Federal Reserve prefers to use. It’s usually a less impactful report, because data on inflation at the consumer and wholesale levels for the month have already been released.

In other trading, U.S. benchmark crude oil lost 7 cents to $77.51 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Brent crude, the international standard, was down 8 cents at $81.59 per barrel.

The U.S. dollar fell to 150.43 Japanese yen from 150.72 yen. The euro rose to $1.0855 from $1.0854.

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AP Business Writer Stan Choe contributed.

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