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* Home improvement retailers seen getting sales boost
* Principia Biopharma at record high on Sanofi buyout
* JD.com surges on strong results
* Indexes up: Dow 0.03%, S&P 0.33%, Nasdaq 0.64% (Updates to market open)
Aug 17 (Reuters) - Wall Street’s main indexes opened higher on Monday as retailers prepared to wind down a better-than-feared quarterly earnings season, while the S&P 500 continued to hover just below record-high levels.
The benchmark S&P 500 traded about three points off a record closing high hit in February after flirting with that level for most of last week as a clutch of data pointed to a wobbly recovery for the world’s biggest economy.
“It goes back to the basic factor - with interest rates low, next to zero even though yields have gone up, there is no place to put your money so stocks continue to hover near record highs,” said Peter Cardillo, chief market economist at Spartan Capital Securities in New York.
“I am not sure if we can (hit a record high) today because up until now there’s no particular news that would spark a strong rally.”
Home improvement chains such as Lowe’s Cos Inc and Home Depot Inc are expected to have received a bump to sales from consumers looking to do minor repair work while spending more time at home due to the pandemic.
The retailers, along with Walmart Inc and Target Corp, rose more than 1% ahead of their quarterly earnings reports later in the week.
As of Friday, 457 companies in the S&P 500 had posted results, of which 81.4% came in above dramatically lowered expectations, according to Refinitiv data.
Minutes of the Federal Reserve’s latest meeting, due on Wednesday, are expected to provide more insight into the central bank’s view of an economic recovery.
Figures this week are likely to show another jump in housing starts, as certain facets of the economy slowly grind back from a pandemic-driven trough.
Investors are also girding their portfolios for market moves ahead of the U.S. presidential vote, as the election season kicks into higher gear with the Democratic National Convention, which runs Monday through Thursday.
The Republican convention will be held from Aug. 24 to Aug. 27 and both will be mostly virtual this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
At 9:38 a.m. ET, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 7.40 points, or 0.03%, at 27,938.42 and the S&P 500 was up 11.04 points, or 0.33%, at 3,383.89. The Nasdaq Composite was up 70.19 points, or 0.64%, at 11,089.49.
Seven of the 11 major S&P sectors rose, with technology providing the biggest support to the benchmark index.
Among individual movers, Principia Biopharma Inc jumped 9.3% to a record high after French healthcare firm Sanofi SA said it would buy the company for about $3.7 billion.
Shares of Chinese ecommerce player Alibaba Group were flat after U.S. President Donald Trump said on Saturday he could exert pressure on more Chinese companies after he moved to ban TikTok earlier in the month.
Alibaba’s peer JD.com Inc rose 2.3% after it beat analysts’ estimates for quarterly revenue as more customers used its online platform to shop for groceries and other essentials in the face of the pandemic.
Advancing issues outnumbered decliners by a 1.45-to-1 ratio on the NYSE and by a 1.33-to-1 ratio on the Nasdaq.
The S&P index recorded 15 new 52-week highs and no new low, while the Nasdaq recorded 35 new highs and two new lows. (Reporting by Ambar Warrick and Medha Singh in Bengaluru; editing by Maju Samuel and Anil D’Silva)
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