Stock Market Today: S&P 500, Nasdaq Nab New Highs as Apple Gains

The Dow ended in the red on weakness in American Express (AXP).

apple logo on skyscraper
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Stocks churned mostly higher today as investors continued to cheer Friday's dovish speech from Fed Chair Jerome Powell, where he indicated that tapering of the central bank's bond-buying program was likely imminent, but a rate hike was not.

The idea of low interest rates for the foreseeable future as well as a 3.4-basis point (a basis point is one-one hundredth of a percentage point) decline in the 10-year Treasury yield to 1.278% boosted the technology sector (+1.1%).

Among individual names, iPhone maker Apple (AAPL (opens in new tab)) was one of the biggest gainers, jumping 3.0% to top $2.5 trillion in market capitalization, while fintech PayPal (PYPL (opens in new tab), +3.6%) rose on unconfirmed reports that it may be considering its own stock-trading platform.

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This helped lift the Nasdaq Composite 0.9% to 15,265 – a new record high. The S&P 500 Index scored a fresh all-time peak of its own, rising 0.4% to 4,528. The Dow Jones Industrial Average, however, ended the day down 0.2% at 35,399 amid weakness in financial stock American Express (AXP (opens in new tab), -2.6%).

Other news in the stock market today:

  • The small-cap Russell 2000 gave back 0.5% to 2,265.
  • Affirm (AFRM (opens in new tab)) surged 46.7% after the buy-now-pay-later provider inked a deal with e-commerce giant Amazon.com (AMZN (opens in new tab), +2.2%). Under the terms of the deal, AMZN customers making purchases of $50 or more will have the option to choose monthly payments through AFRM's service. The program is currently being tested by a select group of Amazon.com users, with plans to expand it to a wider group over the coming months.
  • A downgrade to Hold from Buy at Stifel weighed on Dave & Buster's Entertainment (PLAY (opens in new tab), -4.7%) today. "We are taking a more cautious stance toward full-service restaurant stocks based on concerns that rising COVID cases are impacting customer visits and exacerbating challenges with employee staffing," they say. "We believe the incremental buyer of the stock at this point will need to underwrite the company's long-term unit growth potential, which we struggle to argue is a compelling thesis." Raymond James analysts, on the other hand, reiterated their Strong Buy rating on PLAY, calling the stock "materially undervalued."
  • U.S. crude futures rose 0.7% to settle at $69.21 per barrel.
  • Gold futures slipped 0.4% to finish at $1,812.20 an ounce.
  • The CBOE Volatility Index (VIX) retreated 1.2% to 16.19.
  • Bitcoin edged up 0.7% to $48,672.10. (Bitcoin trades 24 hours a day; prices reported here are as of 4 p.m. each trading day.)

stock price chart 083021

(Image credit: YCharts)

Stay the Course With Stocks

The S&P 500 is set to close out the historically weak month of August with impressive gains, up 3% since its July 30 close.

So far this year, the index "has made 52 new all-time highs," Ryan Detrick, chief market strategist for LPL Financial, notes. "To put in context how rare this is, only 1964 and 1995 saw more than 50 new highs before August was over."

While this is all well and good, what should investors do going forward?

Continue to favor stocks over bonds, Detrick says. While a stock market correction could certainly be in the cards, especially since the S&P has not seen a typically healthy 5% pullback yet this year, "when looking at the recent pace of earnings, the policy environment and market history, we fail to see a compelling bear case against equities," he adds.

For those looking to add some tactical positions to their portfolio, consider this list of high-quality stocks the analysts love or these 21 picks with big potential through year's end.

You could also take a look at what the "smart money" is up to. Here, we've compiled a list of 25 stocks that are the most widely held among institutional investors with deep pockets and vast resources.

Karee Venema was long AAPL as of this writing.

Karee Venema
Contributing Editor, Kiplinger.com