U.S. stocks rose moderately Thursday with the Dow and the Nasdaq touching intraday highs as investors focused on former FBI Director James Comey’s appearance in front of the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee.
As the public portion of Comey’s testimony wraps up, the Dow Jones Industrial Average DJIA, +0.31% climbed 68 points, or 0.3%, at 21,242. The blue-chip gauge hit a record of 21,265.69 as Goldman Sachs Group Inc. GS, +2.21% and J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. shares led the index.
The S&P 500 index SPX, +0.17% rose 3 points, or 0.1% to 2,436 as financials rallied 1.7%.
The Nasdaq Composite Index COMP, +0.27% gained 15 points, or 0.2%, to 6,312 after setting an intraday record of 6,318.39.
“It is evident from the market’s reaction that the testimony is more hype than substance, equivalent to preparing for a major storm that may not occur,” said Kent Engelke, chief economic strategist at Capitol Securities Management Inc.
Comey’s testimony is part of a litany of potentially market-moving events playing out over the next 24 hours, including an earlier decision by the European Central Bank to keep its monetary policy unchanged and a U.K. snap election.
However, Wall Street investors were signaling that events don’t appear to threaten the stock market’s push into record territory, which has been driven by President Donald Trump’s promises of tax cuts, infrastructure spending and deregulation.
“Testimony would have to be really, really damning enough to throw all of [Trump’s policy promises] into the trash bin, and that’s not what we have right now in this [Comey] testimony,” said Mike Antonelli, chief equity sales trader at Robert W. Baird & Co.
Comey’s prepared statement, released Wednesday, suggests he was worried Trump had sought to secure his “loyalty” and wanted him to help “lift the cloud” from the investigation into possible Russian interference in the U.S. election was casting. Comey also confirmed the president’s assertion that the director had repeatedly assured Trump that the FBI hadn’t opened an investigation into him. He reiterated those assertions during his testimony in front of the Senate panel.
Phil Orlando, chief equity strategist at Federated Investors, said barring any coming surprises, recent events suggests that the stock market should drift higher.
“Ultimately, stock markets are going to reflect earnings,” he said.
Orlando said the U.S. and Europe are showing strong quarterly results that may help to support gains in stocks that some strategists and investors view as overvalued.
Earlier in the day, the ECB, as expected, left interest rates unchanged but said it continued to expect interest rates “to remain at present levels for an extended period of time, and well past the horizon” of its asset-buying program, which is set to run at least through December. In previous statements, the ECB had said it expected rates “to remain at present or lower levels for an extended period of time.”
Beyond the ECB and Comey, investors also were focused on the U.K. general election,
In the U.K., voters headed to the polls in an election that turned out to be much more uncertain than anyone had predicted. Opinion polls are still giving Prime Minister Theresa May’s Conservative Party the lead, but the big question is whether the party will increase its majority in parliament. Polling stations close at 10 p.m. London time, or 5 p.m. Eastern, and the first exit polls will be released immediately after.
The pound GBPUSD, -0.2006% traded at a two-week high as voting got under way, buying $1.2934, compared with $1.2960 late Wednesday in New York.
Stock movers: Shares of Yahoo! Inc. YHOO, +8.32% rallied 8.4% after news late Wednesday that up to 1,000 layoffs are expected at the combined Yahoo and AOL companies set to be bought by Verizon Communications Inc. VZ, -0.67%
Shares of Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. BABA, +11.12% jumped 11% after the Chinese e-commerce giant said revenues are expected to grow between 45% and 49% in 2018.
Shares of Nordstrom Inc. JWN, +10.57% soared 11% following reports that the retailer is exploring taking itself private.
Other markets: Stocks in Asia closed mostly higher, although Japan’s Nikkei 225 index NIK, -0.38% bucked the positive trend. The losses in Tokyo came after the yen jumped on reports the Bank of Japan is running simulations of exits from quantitative easing.
European stocks were mixed following the ECB meeting and ahead of the U.K. election result.
—Sara Sjolin contributed to this article.