Wall Street shrugs off US economic contraction

Wall Street ended sharply higher on Thursday after a strong quarterly report from Meta Platforms lifted beaten down technology and growth stocks and offset worries about the US economy’s contraction in the first quarter.

The Facebook parent surged 17.6 percent after the social network reported a larger-than-expected profit and rebounded from a drop in users.

Apple, the world’s most valuable company, and e-commerce giant Amazon.com both rallied more than 4 percent ahead of their quarterly reports later in the day. In extended trade, Amazon tumbled about 10 percent after the company forecast current-quarter sales below Wall Street estimates.

Investors have been dumping high growth stocks for weeks, due to worries about inflation, rising interest rates and a potential economic slowdown. Even with Thursday’s strong gain, the tech-heavy Nasdaq was down almost 10 percent in the month of April, on track for its deepest one-month decline since March 2020.

“When interest rates, the inflation path and what the Fed is going to do are so volatile, it just means that pricing every other asset is that much more difficult,” said Zach Hill, head of Portfolio Strategy at Horizon Investments in Charlotte, North Carolina.

The US economy unexpectedly contracted in the first quarter as Covid-19 cases surged again, and government pandemic relief money dropped.

The first decrease in gross domestic product since the short and sharp pandemic recession nearly two years ago, reported by the Commerce Department, was mostly driven by a wider trade deficit as imports surged, and a slowdown in the pace of inventory accumulation.

The S&P 500 climbed 2.47 percent to end the session at 4,288 points.

The Nasdaq gained 3.06 percent to 12,872 points, while Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 1.85 percent to 33,916 points.

Qualcomm Inc surged 9.7 percent after the chipmaker forecast third-quarter revenue above analyst expectations. Caterpillar fell 0.7 percent after it warned that profit margins in the current quarter were likely to be pressured from surging costs. (Reuters)