Dow edges higher as big banks book better-than-expected earnings and revenues

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U.S. stocks were slightly higher at the start of Wednesday’s session as earnings of big banks kicked off the first quarter reporting season, beginning with results from JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo and Goldman Sachs.

Wall Street also was watching for the latest word from Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell later in the session as well as the Fed’s Beige Book report on business conditions.

Market participants were also awaiting the public listing of crypto platform Coinbase Global, which is coming as bitcoin prices BTCUSD, -0.41%, the world’s most prominent crypto, were heading to records.

How are stock benchmarking trading?
  • The Dow Jones Industrial Average DJIA, +0.49% rose 86 points, or 0.3%, to 33,763.
  • S&P 500 SPX, +0.08% gained 3 points, or 0.1%, to 4,144.
  • Nasdaq Composite COMP, -0.07% added 5 points, or less than 0.1%, to 14,001.

On Tuesday, the Dow DJIA, +0.49% fell 68.13 points to end at 33,677.27, a decline of 0.2%. However, the S&P 500 SPX, +0.08% climbed 13.60 points, closing up 0.3%, to a record 4,141.59, its 21st of the year; The Nasdaq Composite Index COMP, -0.07% closed rose 146.10 points, or 1.1%, finishing at 13,996.10, a mere 0.71% from its Feb. 12 record close. The Nasdaq-100 index NDX, -0.39% also finished at a record on Tuesday.

What’s driving the market?

Investors are keying in on first-quarter reports from JPMorgan Chase JPM, -0.60%, Goldman Sachs Group GS, +2.93% and Wells Fargo & Co. WFC, +1.94% on Wednesday for evidence of the health of the country’s financial institutions and for their outlook for the economy.

So far, all three major U.S. financial institutions have reported rising profits and a reduction in reserves that banks have set aside for potential losses from souring loans.

Meanwhile, Powell is slated to deliver a speech at 12 p.m. Eastern at the Economic Club of Washington, where his comments could be watched for clues on the health of the economy and his view on inflation.

“Mr. Powell is likely to reiterate the message that the economic outlook has brightened substantially, that risks remain, that the Fed will base policy on data rather than expectations, and that it is likely to be ‘some time’ before sufficient substantial progress is made to warrant tapering its asset purchase program,” wrote analysts at UBS in a Wednesday research note.

Later in the session, investors may also watch for the Fed’s Beige Book report on business conditions in the Fed’s 12 districts amid the COVID pandemic.

In economic data, the U.S. import price index increased 1.2% in March, and 0.8% stripping out for fuel prices. Economists polled by Dow Jones and The Wall Street Journal had forecast 0.9% increase.

Which companies are in focus?
  • Coinbase Global COIN, , one of the first cryptocurrency exchanges to go public, is set to start trading Wednesday with a reference price of $250 a share.
  • Shares of JPMorgan Chase & Co. fell Wednesday, after CEO Jamie Dimon noted loan demand would remain “challenged” even as the banking giant reported first-quarter profit and revenue that beat expectations.
  • Dollar General CorpDG said Wednesday that it aims to hire up to 20,000 people at in-person and virtual hiring events that the discount retailer will host from April 19 through April 23.
  • Jack in the Box Inc. JACK disclosed Wednesday that it will be “separating” from Andrew Martin, who has been the fast food chain’s chief information officer since November 2016, effective May 7.
  • Shares of Goldman Sachs Group Inc. rose 1.7% Wednesday after the bank and brokerage company reported record profit and revenue that beat expectations.
  • Wells Fargo & Co.  WFC, +1.94% posted stronger-than-expected profit and revenue for the first quarter, boosted by the release of $1.6 billion in its reserves for credit losses. Shares of Wells Fargo rose 1.2%.
  • Bed Bath & Beyond Inc. BBBY, -14.30% stock dropped 14% after the home goods retailer reported fourth-quarter earnings that beat expectations, but fell short on sales.
How are other assets faring?
  • The ICE U.S. Dollar Index DXY, -0.07%,  a measure of the currency against a basket of six major rivals, was down 0.1%.
  • U.S. crude for May delivery CL.1, +2.29%  rose 2.1% to $61.47 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.
  • The 10-year Treasury note yield TMUBMUSD10Y, 1.632%  added over a single basis point to 1.63%. Bond prices move inversely to yields.
  • Gold futures finished higher, with the June contract  GCM21, -0.70% falling 0.6% to $1,737.20 an ounce.
  • In Europe, the Stoxx 600 index SXXP rose 0.1%, while London’s FTSE 100 UKX added 0.4%.
  • In Asia, the Shanghai Composite SHCOMP gained 0.6%, Hong Kong’s Hang Seng HSI closed up 1.4%, and Japan’s Nikkei 225 NIK fell 0.4%.