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Stocks rise to kick off August, Dow nears record high

U.S. stocks rose on Monday morning as investors kicked off the first trading day of August looking to build on six straight months of gains.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 179 points, or about 0.5%. S&P 500 gained 0.6% and Nasdaq Composite added 0.5%. The S&P 500 and the Dow sit less than 1% from new all-time highs.

Stocks continued to shake off concerns about the delta variant of Covid, and stocks that would benefit the most from a continued economic recovery led the gains in on Monday.

Shares of Carnival Corp. were up 1.9% in early trading. Major banks including Morgan Stanley and Bank of America were higher. Airline shares were mostly higher.

“We believe the reopening and recovery trend is on track and continue to see upside for equities,” wrote Mark Haefele, chief investment officer of global wealth management at UBS. “We expect the S&P 500 to climb to around 4,650 by June next year, versus 4,395 at present. But we see the greatest upside for cyclical parts of the market, including energy, financials, and Japanese stocks.”

The Senate was finalizing the text of a bipartisan infrastructure bill, also bolstering optimism on Monday. The bill includes $550 billion in new spending over five years. That’s on top of previously approved funds of around $450 billion.

The iShares U.S. Infrastructure ETF rose 1.4% in early trading. Caterpillar shares added 1.8%.

One of the top performers on Wall Street was Square, whose shares rose about more than 7% on Monday after Jack Dorsey’s payment company reported earnings and announced a $29 billion all-stock deal to buy Australian installment loan provider Afterpay.

The S&P 500 managed to notch its sixth month of gains in July, although volatility increased amid concerns about the economic recovery in the face of the spreading delta Covid variant. It’s the best monthly winning streak for the benchmark since 2018. The Nasdaq Composite and Dow Jones Industrial Average added about 1.2% and 1.3%, respectively, in July, while the broad S&P 500 gained close to 2.3% last month.

The U.S. is averaging more than 72,000 new Covid cases a day the last 7 days, according to the latest CDC data, levels not seen since February this year. However, stocks still traded near all-time highs last week even as concerns about the delta variant grew.

“At the end of the day, the stock market is driven by two things: 1) Earnings and 2) Multiples and until COVID (or China) begins to negatively impact one or both of those metrics, stocks can stay resilient,’ Tom Essaye, founder of Sevens Report, said in a note.

Stock picks and investing trends from CNBC Pro:

An overall strong earnings season continues to be a tailwind for the market. So far, 88% of S&P 500 companies that have reported have topped EPS estimates, according to FactSet. For the second quarter, the S&P 500 is on track to post earnings growth of 85.1%, which would be the best growth rate since 2009, according to FactSet.

The first trading day of August comes with more big earnings on the way. Lyft, Amgen, Uber, CVS Health, General Motors and Roku all report quarterly results this week.

The final July reading for the IHS Markit manufacturing purchasing manager’s index came in at 63.4 on Monday, up from the 63.1 preliminary reading and June’s result of 62.1. With PMI, readings above 50 represent expansion in a sector.

Concerns about inflation have plagued the market, however a key inflation indicator showed lesser-than-feared price pressures on Friday. The core personal consumption expenditures price index rose 3.5% in June year-over-year. It marked a sharp acceleration in inflation, but came in slightly below a Dow Jones forecast of a 3.6% jump.

Also on Friday, U.S. second-quarter gross domestic product accelerated 6.5% on an annualized basis, considerably less than the 8.4% rate of growth expected by economists polled by Dow Jones.

On the earnings front, Amazon sank nearly 7.6% Friday after the tech giant reported its first quarterly revenue miss in three years and gave weaker guidance. The stock was little changed on Monday morning.

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