US STOCKS-S&P 500 hits record high as Powell calms taper fears

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* Powell says economy ‘a ways off’ from bond taper

* BofA slips as low interest rates hurt lending business

* American Airlines, Delta Air up on positive forecast

* Indexes up: Dow 0.37%, S&P 0.42%, Nasdaq 0.48% (Adds comments, updates prices to open)

July 14 (Reuters) – The S&P 500 index hit a record high on Wednesday after comments from the Federal Reserve fueled hopes the central bank would stick to its accommodative monetary policy despite a sharp jump in inflation last month.

Fed Chair Jerome Powell, in comments prepared for delivery at a congressional hearing later in the day, reassured investors that the U.S. job market “is still a ways off” from the progress the central bank wants to see before reducing its support for the economy, and current high inflation will ease soon.

“Markets have been in a bit of a tug of war between concerns about high inflation and concerns about pulling back of monetary policy,” said Randy Frederick, vice president of trading and derivatives at Charles Schwab.

“And as Powell continues to say he’s not going to hike rates, then the market continues to perform well.”

Data on Wednesday showed U.S. producer prices increased more than expected in June, a day after a reading showed U.S. consumer prices rose by the most in 13 years last month.

Nine of the 11 major S&P 500 sectors were trading higher, with energy and technology leading early gains.

Trading on Wall Street has been dictated by rising inflation in the past few weeks, with investors fearing that the double whammy from a possible hawkish shift by the Federal Reserve and a spike in coronavirus infections could knock U.S. equities off record highs.

Growth-linked stocks including Apple Inc, Microsoft Corp and Inc rose between 0.6% and 1.6%, leading gains. Also boosting Apple shares was an addition to J.P. Morgan’s “analyst focus list” and a price target hike.

Strong earnings from JPMorgan Chase & Co and Goldman Sachs Group Inc kicked off the quarterly reporting season on Tuesday.

In line with its peers, Bank of America Corp reported a jump in second-quarter profit, but its mainstay lending business took a hit from low interest rates, sending its shares down 2.4%.

Wells Fargo gained 0.9%, while Citigroup Inc added 1.9% as the lenders beat quarterly profit estimates on reserve release boost.

American Airlines jumped 5.4% after it forecast positive cash flow in the second quarter for the first time since the pandemic began, while Delta Air Lines was up 0.6% after it reported upbeat second-quarter results.

Analysts expect 66% growth in profits during the second quarter for S&P 500 companies, compared to a 30.6% decline in profit growth during the second quarter of 2020, according to IBES estimate data from Refinitiv.

At 9:51 a.m. ET, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 127.43 points, or 0.37%, at 35,016.22, the S&P 500 was up 18.37 points, or 0.42%, at 4,387.58 and the Nasdaq Composite was up 69.93 points, or 0.48%, at 14,747.58.

Peloton Interactive slipped 4.6% after Wedbush downgraded the interactive fitness products maker’s stock to “neutral” from “outperform”.

Advancing issues outnumbered decliners by a 2.80-to-1 ratio on the NYSE and by a 1.30-to-1 ratio on the Nasdaq.

The S&P index recorded 25 new 52-week highs and one new low, while the Nasdaq recorded 27 new highs and 43 new lows. (Reporting by Devik Jain and Shreyashi Sanyal in Bengaluru; Editing by Maju Samuel)

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