Stock Market Today

Stock Market Today: Stocks Polish Off a Productive First Half

The major market indexes all had double-digit percentage gains in the first six months of 2021.

Wall Street might have closed Wednesday on a jumbled note – one that investors have become accustomed to over the past couple months – but the major indexes still capped what has inarguably been a fruitful first six months of 2021.

In economic news, a regional manufacturing indicator, the Chicago PMI, dropped a worse-than-expected 9.1 points in June, to 66.1 (which still signals growth, just at a slower rate). U.S. pending-home sales jumped 8% month-over-month in May to stun economists, who collectively were looking for a small decline.

And on the employment front, ADP's monthly jobs report showed a massive 692,000 private-sector payrolls added in June, which was well more than the 550,000 jobs expected.

However, Jennifer Lee, senior economist at BMO Capital Markets, says it has "no implications for Friday's nonfarm report," an indicator that gets much more attention, pointing out that ADP's release has missed private payrolls by more than 400,000 on average over the past four months.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average led the major indexes, gaining 0.6% to 34,502. It was led by Walmart (WMT, +2.7%), which announced a deal to provide its own branded insulin via a partnership with Novo Nordisk (NVO, -0.04%), and Boeing (BA, +1.6%).

The S&P 500 Index scratched out its 34th record high of 2021, gaining 0.1% to close at 4,297, while the Nasdaq Composite actually retreated by a mere 0.2% from yesterday's record close to 14,503.

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But my, what a half! The S&P 500 finished the first six months of 2021 with a 14.4% gain. The Dow (+12.7%) and the Nasdaq (+12.5%) produced similar results, but took vastly different paths to get there.

Other action in the stock market today:

  • The small-cap Russell 2000 edged up 0.07% to 2,310.
  • Bed Bath & Beyond (BBBY) was a featured earnings report this week, and its results were well-received. While the home furnishings retailer missed on the bottom line (5 cents per share reported vs. 8 cents per share expected) in its fiscal first quarter, revenue of $1.95 billion beat the consensus forecast. BBBY stock closed the session up 11.3%.
  • Constellation Brands (STZ) also got a lift after earnings, finishing the day up 1.3%. The beer maker reported a per-share profit of $2.33 in its fiscal first quarter, less than analysts were expecting, but revenue of $2.03 billion came in above estimates. 
  • U.S. crude oil futures rose 0.7% to end at $73.47 per barrel after data from the Energy Information Administration showed domestic crude inventories declined for a sixth straight week.
  • Gold futures gained 0.5% to settle at $1,771.60 an ounce.
  • The CBOE Volatility Index (VIX) slipped 1.2% to 15.83.
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YCharts

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YCharts

Crytpo Closes Out Volatile 1H21

Another first half worth noticing is the performance cryptocurrencies put up – for better or worse.

Bitcoin prices are up 20% through the end of June, but the granddaddy of this field had surged by roughly 120% through April before retreating by 0.9% to today's $34,790. Ethereum (+202% YTD) and Dogecoin (+6,200% YTD) are similarly well off their earlier-year peaks. (Cryptocurrencies trade 24 hours a day; prices reported here are as of 4 p.m. each trading day.)

So are these coins fads, and losing their fight?

"Bitcoin is different in that it has done this before, and each time has gone on to make successive new highs," says Chris Kuiper, vice president at CFRA Research, who also points out that Bitcoin's practice of "halving" every four years helps it to resume price appreciation. "Of course, history does not repeat, but it can rhyme, and these indicators suggest there is still a good probability bitcoin is still in the bull phase of the current cycle."

Investors who are still about diving into cryptocurrencies can certainly just stick in a toe – Kuiper notes that there are "several related equities that offer varying degrees of exposure." But much like blue-chip stocks are suggested as a starting point for new investors getting accustomed to the water, if you do have an interest in cryptocurrencies, it helps to start with the biggest cryptocurrencies, as they're easier to research thanks to a wealth of existing information.

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