May 24, 2016 / 11:41 AM / 3 years ago

Banks and tech drive Wall Street up over 1 percent

(Reuters) - Wall Street surged more than 1 percent on Tuesday and the Nasdaq had its strongest day in three months as investors made peace with the possibility that the U.S. Federal Reserve might soon raise interest rates.

Comments from policymakers in recent days have investors expecting a rate hike potentially in June, much sooner than previously thought, given sluggish economic growth.

Wall Street has benefited from historically low borrowing costs since the 2008 financial crisis and higher rates could choke further gains. But strategists on Tuesday said they were reassured by expectations the Fed would tighten borrowing costs only gradually.

“The market is starting to contemplate the idea that Fed rate hikes this year are A: more likely, and B: not inherently bad in and of themselves,” said Bill Merz, an investment strategist with U.S. Bank Wealth Management.

Shares rose in the banking sector .SPSY, which stands to gain from higher interest rates. Bank of America (BAC.N), Citigroup (C.N) and JPMorgan (JPM.N) all rose more than 1.4 percent.

Microsoft (MSFT.O) jumped 3.12 percent and provided the biggest boost to the Nasdaq and S&P 500, while 3M Co’s (MMM.N) 1.52 percent rise lifted the Dow.

It was the strongest session since March 1 for the Nasdaq Composite and since March 11 for the S&P 500. So far in 2016, the S&P 500 is up about 2 percent and the Nasdaq is down 3 percent.

A screen displays the Dow Jones Industrial Average after the close of trading on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York City, U.S., May 24, 2016. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

Data on Tuesday showed new U.S. single-family home sales surged to a more than eight-year high in April and prices hit a record high, offering further evidence of a pick-up in economic growth.

The Dow Jones industrial average .DJI jumped 1.22 percent to end at 17,706.05 and the S&P 500 .SPX rallied 1.37 percent to 2,076.06. The Nasdaq Composite .IXIC surged 2 percent to 4,861.06.

Gains were broad-based, with all 10 S&P sectors rising and the tech sector .SPLRCT up 2.12 percent.

Late in the day, oil prices extended gains in post-settlement trading after data showed a much bigger-than-expected reduction in U.S. crude inventories.

Also after the bell, Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE.N) jumped 9.6 percent after it said it would spin off its Enterprise Services business and merge it with Computer Sciences Corp CSC.N, which surged 25 percent.

During the session, Homebuilder Toll Brothers (TOL.N) jumped 8.71 percent after quarterly revenue beat expectations.

Twitter (TWTR.N) fell 2.64 percent after brokerage MoffettNathanson downgraded the company’s stock to “sell” from “neutral”.

Slideshow (4 Images)

About 6.9 billion shares changed hands on U.S. exchanges, below the 7.2 billion daily average for the past 20 trading days, according to Thomson Reuters data.

Advancing issues outnumbered decliners on the NYSE by 2,324 to 701. On the Nasdaq, 2,210 issues rose and 603 fell.

The S&P 500 index showed 29 new 52-week highs and one new low, while the Nasdaq recorded 87 new highs and 29 new lows.

Additional reporting by Tanya Agrawal; Editing by Nick Zieminski and Dan Grebler

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