Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE)
Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange at the opening bell yesterday. The benchmark US 10-year Treasury yields slipped to their lowest since November 2016. Image Credit: AFP

New York: The S&P 500 index hit a record high on Wednesday, led by defensive sectors, as bets of an interest-rate cut rose on fears of a slowing global economy due to simmering trade tensions.

The benchmark US 10-year Treasury yields slipped to their lowest since November 2016, while Eurozone yields tumbled to record lows on bets the European Central Bank’s next chief would stay a dovish course.

The defensive utilities, real estate and consumer staples rose the most among the 11 major S&P sectors as the falling bond yields made stocks that pay high dividends more attractive.

“With the overhang of further tariffs on Chinese imports paused and the chances of a rate cut from the Fed getting higher, more investors are getting comfortable to invest bigger in equities,” said Shawn Gibson, chief investment officer at asset management firm Liquid Strategies.

Traders bet for about a 25 per cent chance the Federal Reserve would cut borrowing costs by half a percentage point at its July 30-31 policy meeting, compared with 20 per cent late on Monday.

Bets that the central bank would cut rates to preserve a decade-long US expansion helped the S&P 500 and the Dow Jones indexes post their best June performance in decades.

The health care sector gained 0.38 per cent, the biggest boost to the S&P 500, helped by gains in Johnson & Johnson, UnitedHealth Group Inc and Merck & Co Inc.

The financial sector was flat, while bank stocks, which tend to benefit from a higher interest rate environment, fell 0.37 per cent.

Trading volumes are expected to be thin due to shortened trading hours on Wednesday ahead of the July Fourth holiday.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 50.82 points, or 0.19 per cent, to 26,837.5 and the S&P 500 gained 7.38 points, or 0.25 per cent, to 2,980.39.

The Nasdaq Composite added 22.90 points, or 0.28 per cent, to 8,131.99.

The ADP National Employment Report, often considered a precursor to the Labor Department’s more comprehensive monthly non-farm payrolls data due on Friday, showed US private employers added 102,000 jobs in June, well below economists’ expectations.

Another set of data showed the US trade deficit jumped to a five-month high in May as imports of goods increased and new orders for US-made goods fell for a second straight month May while shipments barely rose.

Among stocks, Symantec Corp surged 14.5 per cent, the most on the S&P, after sources told Reuters that chipmaker Broadcom Inc is in advanced talks to buy the cybersecurity firm.

Broadcom fell 3.6 per cent.

Tesla Inc rose 6.4 per cent after the electric carmaker set a record for quarterly vehicle deliveries in a triumphant response to months of questions about demand for its luxury electric cars.

Advancing issues outnumbered decliners by a 2.01-to-1 ratio on the NYSE and by a 1.40-to-1 ratio on the Nasdaq.

The S&P index recorded 53 new 52-week highs and no new low, while the Nasdaq recorded 59 new highs and 22 new lows.