March 1, 2024

The Dow Jones Industrial Average ended slightly higher Wednesday, notching an all-time high finish, while the S&P 500 edged nearer record territory as investors attempted to continue a year-end rally fueled by expectations that U.S. interest rates will fall in 2024.

What happened

  • The Dow Jones Industrial Average
    DJIA
    rose 111.19 points, or 0.3%, to finish at 37,656.52, eclipsing its previous closing record of 37,557.92, set on Dec. 19.

  • The S&P 500
    SPX
    eked out a gain of 6.83 points, or 0.1%, to end at 4,781.58, leaving it just 0.3% below its record close of 4,796.56 set on Jan. 3, 2022.

  • The Nasdaq Composite
    COMP
    ended at 15,099.18, up 24.60 points, or 0.2%.

See: S&P 500 is moving toward record territory. Here’s what stock-market investors need to know.

What drove markets

Stocks briefly extended gains after the Treasury Department auctioned $58 billion in 5-year notes, prompting a further pullback in benchmark bond yields.

Market participants were hoping to see strong demand, much like what was seen for Tuesday’s sale of 2-year notes, Tom Essaye, founder of Sevens Report Research, said in a note.

A steady rally into the year’s end has further propelled the benchmark S&P 500 toward an all-time high. The Wall Street equity benchmark is striving for a ninth consecutive week of gains, which would be its best such winning streak since 2004, having jumped 24.4% so far in 2023.

See: The 10 days that moved the stock market the most in 2023

Investors have piled into stocks primarily on hopes that with inflation falling back near the Federal Reserve’s 2% target, the central bank will start reducing borrowing costs by the spring of 2024, all while the U.S. economy avoids a recession.

But that’s also prompted concerns that market participants have gotten ahead of themselves.

“The stock market is too optimistic about the quantity of rate cuts expected in 2024, and we may be borrowing some of 2024’s gains now as the year-end rally continues, because we don’t expect to see as many rate cuts as the market is currently predicting,” said Michael Landsberg, chief investment officer at Landsberg Bennett Private Wealth Management, a Punta Gorda, Fla.-based firm with $1 billion in assets under management.

“We expect to see three rate cuts in 2024 starting in July, and not any sooner than that unless something unexpected happens in the economy that warrants lower interest rates,” Landsberg said.

Tom Lee, head of research at Fundstrat Global Advisors, said his team leans toward markets continuing to rally in the last three trading days in 2023, given the strength of December already, which has seen the S&P 500 rise 4.5% so far this month.

“Given the trailing performance of fund managers, and the notion of ‘never short a dull market,’ we see the drift higher into the final days of 2023,” Lee said in a Wednesday client note.

Companies in focus

Don’t miss: The best-performing stock of the year rose nearly 10-fold, while the second-best averted disaster to surge 1,000% in a wild 2023

Jamie Chisholm contributed.