S&P 500 Tops Record Level

U.S. stocks climbed, sending the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index above a closing record, as investors speculated the Federal Reserve will continue to support the economy as central bankers meet in Jackson Hole.

The S&P 500 added 0.1 percent to 1,988.94 at 9:34 a.m. in New York, above a closing high of 1,987.98 reached July 24.

“Markets are looking for some indication from Yellen as to what happens once quantitative easing stops,” Peter Dixon, a global equities economist at Commerzbank AG in London, said by phone. “I suspect she’ll say that it depends on the data. The U.S. economy is in reasonable shape. The task for central banks, and Yellen is at the forefront, is how to wean markets away from almost unlimited liquidity provisions when the economy is recovering but remains fragile.”

The S&P 500 rose 0.3 percent yesterday, closing within two points of a record. The benchmark index has rebounded 4 percent from a three-month low on Aug. 7 as investors speculated central banks will keep interest rates low even as the economy shows signs of recovery.

Fed Minutes

Minutes to the central banks’ July meeting released yesterday showed that officials raised the possibility that aggressive stimulus will end sooner than anticipated, even as they acknowledged persistent slack in the labor market. The central bank will probably wind up its asset-purchase program at its October meeting, according to a Bloomberg survey of economists.

Data today showed fewer Americans than forecast applied for unemployment benefits last week. Yellen has highlighted uneven progress in the labor market in making the case for further accommodation.

The Fed minutes showed “many participants” still see “a larger gap between current labor market conditions and those consistent with their assessments of normal levels of labor utilization.” At the same time, “many members” noted that the “characterization of labor market underutilization might have to change before long,” particularly if the job market makes faster-than-anticipated progress, the minutes also said.

Jackson Hole

Fed Chair Janet Yellen will speak tomorrow at the Fed Bank of Kansas City’s economic symposium that starts today in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. European Central Bank President Mario Draghi will also speak.

The S&P 500 has almost tripled since its March 2009 low, helped by three rounds of Fed stimulus, coupled with better-than-projected corporate earnings. The gauge has not had a decline of 10 percent in almost three years. It trades at 17.8 times the reported earnings of its companies, near the highest level since 2010.

Soft Touch

Investors are betting that a soft touch on monetary policy will continue to suppress stock volatility, pouring a record stretch of cash into an exchange-traded note that rallies as calm returns to equities. The Chicago Board Options Exchange Volatility Index, the gauge known as the VIX (VIX), has lost 31 percent this month, closing at its lowest level since July 23.

Among other economic reports today, data at 9:45 a.m. may show a preliminary gauge of manufacturing slipped to 55.7 this month from 55.8 in July. Another report may indicate existing-home sales expanded at a slower pace in July while the Conference Board’s index of leading indicators, a measure of the outlook for the next three to six months, rose 0.6 percent in July, economists forecast.

Gap Inc. and Salesforce.com Inc. are among eight S&P 500 companies reporting earnings today.

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