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The S&P 500 closed at an all-time high for a fifth straight session on Thursday after data showing strong U.S. economic growth in the fourth quarter boosted sentiment, while Tesla tumbled following a disappointing sales forecast. The TSX notched a 20-month high, aided by a rally in the energy sector.

The gains extended a rally in which the S&P 500 recently hit record highs for the first time in two years, lifted by optimism about the economy and lower interest rates, as well as bets on artificial intelligence.

Tesla slumped 12% to its lowest since May 2023 after CEO Elon Musk warned sales growth would slow this year despite price cuts that have hurt its margins. That left the car maker’s stock market value at about US$580 billion, below Eli Lilly and just above Broadcom.

The U.S. economy grew faster than expected in the December quarter amid strong consumer spending, confounding predictions of a recession after the Federal Reserve aggressively raised interest rates, with full-year growth of 2.5%.

Yet inflation pressures subsided, with the personal consumption expenditures (PCE) price index increasing just 1.7% over the past three months from 2.6% in the third quarter.

Bond yields, which move inversely to their price, slid. The yield on U.S. two-year Treasuries, which reflects interest rate expectations, fell 7.4 basis points to 4.304%. The yield on benchmark 10-year notes fell 5.6 basis points to 4.122%. Canadian bond yields were relatively steady.

“GDP was a good surprise for the market in that there wasn’t problematic inflation, and the consumer continues to spend money,” said Rob Haworth, senior investment strategy director at U.S. Bank Asset Management Group. “And so there more support for the narrative that company earnings and sales growth should be better as we press forward.”

The report confounded some economists, however, as strong growth and slowing inflation are at odds.

“My view is this combination of data is very, very unusual and it’s not likely to be sustained,” said Tom Simons, money market economist at Jefferies in New York.

“Either inflation is going to pick back up again or growth has to slow. I just don’t understand how the economy can continue with this perfect, ideal, immaculate disinflation story.”

Real gross domestic income has not kept pace with GDP growth, suggesting the economy may not be as strong as it appears, said Joe Lavorgna, chief U.S. economist in New York at SMBC Group.

Also, massive government spending is keeping demand stronger than it otherwise would be, he said in a note.

Expectations that the Fed will cut interest rates in March rose to 47.4% from 41.2% on Wednesday, according to CME Group’s FedWatch Tool.

Earlier, the European Central Bank kept rates unchanged at a record-high 4%, as expected. Bond yields plunged as investors bet the ECB has both the growth and inflation outlook wrong and will deliver five rate cuts starting in early spring.

Other data Thursday showed U.S. initial jobless claims for the week ended Jan. 20 rose to 214,000, higher than the estimated 200,000 figure.

The Toronto Stock Exchange’s S&P/TSX composite index ended up 75.76 points, or 0.4%, at 21,101.54, its highest closing level since May 2022.

The energy sector rose 1.6% as U.S. crude oil futures settled 3% higher at $77.36 a barrel.

The materials group, which includes precious and base metals miners and fertilizer companies, also gained ground, adding 0.6%, as the price of gold rose.

The TSX utilities group was up 1.3%, supported by a decline in long-term borrowing costs. The Canadian 10-year yield eased 2.1 basis points to 3.480%.

Quarterly results next week from Apple, Microsoft , Amazon, Alphabet and Meta Platforms will give investors a glimpse of whether those heavyweight company’s high valuations are warranted following surges in their stocks since Wall Street bottomed out in 2022.

The S&P 500 climbed 0.53% to end the session at 4,894.16 points.

The Nasdaq gained 0.18% to 15,510.50 points, while Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 0.64% to 38,049.13 points.

Other electric car makers fell following Tesla’s quarterly report late on Wednesday. Rivian Automotive lost 2.2% and Lucid Group dropped 6.7%.

Humana sank 11.7% after it became the latest health insurer to forecast disappointing annual profits, dragging the S&P 500 healthcare sector index down 0.2%.

UnitedHealth and Cigna dropped 3.9% and 2%, respectively.

IBM jumped 9.5% after forecasting full-year revenue growth above estimates, while Comcast added 3.4% after the media giant topped quarterly revenue estimates.

American Airlines soared 10.3% after the carrier forecast largely upbeat annual profits.

Of the S&P 500 companies that have reported earnings so far, 82% have surpassed expectations, LSEG data showed. That compares to a long-term average beat rate of 67%.

Boeing fell 5.7% after the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration barred the troubled planemaker from expanding production of its 737 MAX narrowbody planes.

Advancing issues outnumbered falling ones within the S&P 500 by a 4.0-to-one ratio. The S&P 500 posted 50 new highs and two new lows; the Nasdaq recorded 97 new highs and 119 new lows. Volume on U.S. exchanges was 11.5 billion shares traded, about average for the previous 20 sessions.

Reuters, Globe staff

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