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Stocks rally amid debt debate, Walmart earnings: Stock market news today | May 18, 2023

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Stocks closed higher on Thursday as investors await updates to the ongoing debt ceiling debate and quarterly results from Walmart (WMT) flashed resilience from the American consumer.

The S&P 500 (^GSPC) rose 0.94%, while the Dow Jones Industrial Average (^DJI) added 115 points, or 0.34%. The technology-heavy Nasdaq Composite (^IXIC) was up 1.51%.

President Joe Biden left for Asia on Wednesday with no debt ceiling plan in place but enough optimism to help send stocks higher on Wednesday. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy told reporters that Wednesday’s discussion “set the the stage to carry on further conversations.”

“We are starting to see enough common themes in their views to feel confident that a deal is going to be announced in relatively short order,” Jefferies US Economist Thomas Simmons wrote in a note on Wednesday. “Given the June 1 X-date warnings from Treasury and the time it takes for the legislative process to play out, we could see an announcement of a framework as soon as Sunday when Biden returns from his trip to Japan for the G-7 meetings.”

Meanwhile, Walmart (WMT) stock rose more than 1% as America’s largest big box retailer reported higher same-store sales growth than Wall Street had anticipated. Walmart also boosted its full-year adjusted earnings per share forecast from a range of $5.90-$6.05 to a range of $6.10-$6.20.

Shares of Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba (BABA) fell 5.47% on Thursday after reporting mixed quarterly results compared to Wall Street’s expectations. The company also announced the spinoff of its cloud business has been approved.

The report comes after several warnings on the consumer, particularly in discretionary spending, have come from the likes of Home Deport (HD) and Target (TGT) earlier in the week.

Elsewhere in stocks, Netflix (NFLX) shares soared 9.22% as the streaming giant announced its ad tier has five million monthly active users.

More broadly, FAANG stocks rallied on Thursday. Netflix, Apple (AAPL), Alphabet (GOOGL), Meta (META), Microsoft (MSFT)and Nvidia (NVDA) stock all finished at their highest levels in at least a year.

On the economic front, investors have been closely following hints regarding the Federal Reserve’s next decision on interest rates. While markets had priced in a more than a 75% chance of a pause in interest rate hikes at the Fed’s June meeting entering Thursday, Dallas Fed President Lorie Logan provided a more hawkish tone.

“The data in coming weeks could yet show that it is appropriate to skip a meeting. As of today, though, we aren’t there yet,” Logan said in a speech to bankers in San Antonio.

Weekly jobless claims came in lower than expected. The U.S. Department of Labor reported 242,000 claims for the week of May 13. Economists surveyed by Bloomberg had expected 251,000. Unemployment claims the week prior came in at 264,000. Thursday’s drop marked the largest weekly drop in US unemployment benefits since 2021. The drop comes after reports suggested that fraud inflated figures in Massachusetts.

Existing home sales declined 3.4% in April. The 4.28 million existing home sales came in lower than the 4.3 economists had projected, per Bloomberg consensus data. In March, 4.43 million existing homes were sold.

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