200819 Wall STreet
A sign for a Wall Street building is shown in New York. Image Credit: AP

Wall Street ended sharply higher on Thursday, lifted by gains in Nvidia and other technology-related stocks as investors focused on the Federal Reserve’s Jackson Hole conference for clues about the central bank’s policy outlook.

Fed Chair Jerome Powell is due to give a speech on Friday that investors will dissect for indications of how aggressively the Fed may move to raise interest rates as it battles decades-high inflation.

“We’re in a period of time between the end of the second-quarter earnings season and meaningful additional data from the Federal Reserve. Markets are churning a bit with a reasonably low level of volatility,” said Bill Northey, senior investment director at US Bank Wealth Management in Minneapolis.

The yield on the closely watched 10-year Treasury note faded after recently hitting a two-month high.

Declining interest rates tend to benefit technology stocks trading at high valuations.

“Lower interest rates have certainly put some support underneath some of the more growth-oriented sectors,” Northey said.

Nvidia jumped 4 per cent after the graphics chipmaker gave a weaker-than-expected quarterly forecast that many investors viewed as signaling the worst of a sales downturn may be over.

That drove a rally in the Philadelphia semiconductor index .

Apple and Microsoft rose more than 1 per cent, while Amazon and Google-owner Alphabet added more than 2 per cent, with all four companies making substantial contributions to the Nasdaq’s increase.

All 11 S&P 500 sector indexes rose, led by materials , up 2.26 per cent, followed by a 2.06 per cent gain in communication services.

Data earlier in the day showed the US economy contracted less than initially thought in the second quarter, dispelling some fears that a recession was underway.

Traders see a slightly greater likelihood of a third 75-basis-point interest hike from the Fed at its policy meeting next month, compared with a 50-basis-point increase.

Fed officials on Thursday were noncommittal about the size of the interest rate increase they plan to approve at their Sept. 20-21 meeting, but they continued hammering the point that rates will rise and stay high until such high rates of inflation have been squeezed from the economy.

Electric-vehicle maker Tesla Inc slid 0.35 per cent after a 3-for-1 stock split came into effect.

The S&P 500 climbed 1.41 per cent to end the session at 4,199.12 points.

The Nasdaq gained 1.67 per cent to 12,639.27 points, while the Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 0.98 per cent to 33,291.78 points.

Following Thursday’s rally, the S&P 500 remains down about 12 per cent in 2022, while the Nasdaq is down about 19 per cent.

Citigroup Inc climbed 2.1 per cent after saying it plans to close its consumer and commercial banking businesses in Russia starting this quarter.

Salesforce Inc fell 3.4 per cent after it cut its annual forecasts over “measured” spending from clients and a hit from a stronger dollar.

Additional chipmakers rallying on Thursday included Advanced Micro Devices, up 4.8 per cent, and Broadcom, which gained 3.6 per cent.

Advancing issues outnumbered falling ones within the S&P 500 by a 13.4-to-one ratio.

The S&P 500 posted 4 new highs and 29 new lows; the Nasdaq recorded 54 new highs and 70 new lows.

Volume on US exchanges was relatively light, with 9.3 billion shares traded, compared to an average of 10.8 billion shares over the previous 20 sessions.