By Will Horner and Michael Wursthorn 

The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose more than 200 points Wednesday, on pace for a record close, as investors begin shifting their focus to the latest earnings-reporting season, starting with the biggest banks.

Goldman Sachs Group accounted for a significant chunk of the blue-chip index's gain after the bank reported sharply higher profits for the first quarter, benefiting from a turbocharged market and an economic recovery.

Energy stocks also rose, giving the stock market an added boost, after the International Energy Agency on Wednesday raised its forecast for annual global oil demand, sending crude oil prices higher.

Goldman and other bank stocks including JPMorganChase and Wells Fargo kicked off the first-quarter earnings reporting season Wednesday. Investors say they are optimistic about the biggest American companies' earnings and outlook for the rest of the year, given the projections for a sharp economic recovery.

Sizable government stimulus measures and repeated pledges from the Federal Reserve to continue supporting the recovery have largely helped alleviate concerns about the pace of the reopening and the vaccination rollout.

"As the fundamentals emerge in the weeks ahead, there should be some really eye-catching earnings data coming through and some very strong economic data," said Paul O'Connor, head of a multiasset team at Janus Henderson Investors. "It is about working out whether the fundamentals are strong enough to justify what we have seen markets do."

Analysts' projections back that up that outlook. Wall Street's forecasters predict the S&P 500 will grow first-quarter earnings 27% from the same period a year earlier, according to FactSet. That is sharply higher than the nearly 4% profit growth the S&P 500 clocked in the fourth quarter of last year.

On Wednesday, the Dow added 220 points, bringing the index to 33897, on pace for its highest close ever.

Losses across tech and communication stocks, the market's heavyweights, weighed more heavily on the S&P 500 and Nasdaq Composite, however. The broad S&P 500 was up less than 0.1% in recent trading, while the Nasdaq Composite slipped 0.3%.

Shares of Goldman Sachs led the Dow higher, rising 4.5% after the Wall Street firm reported better-than-expected results for the first quarter.

Wells Fargo shares also traded higher after recovering from an earlier slump, gaining 4.9% in recent trading. The bank had also topped analysts' earnings projections.

JPMorgan, however, ticked lower, shedding 0.6% after the bank said that first-quarter profit nearly quintupled following the release of $5.2 billion it had set aside to cover soured loans.

Other large American businesses will report profits through the week.

"There has never been more bullish expectations on what investors think they are going to hear from companies," said David Donabedian, chief investment officer at CIBC Private Wealth Management. "With earnings season, you get a lot of buy-the-rumor, sell-the-news, and there is this idea that we are going to get a blowout first quarter."

Energy stocks was the best-performing sector on a percentage basis, rising 3.4% in recent trading. The sector got a boost after brent crude oil prices rallied more than 3.5% following the IEA forecast.

Tech and communication stocks fell 0.4% each.

Investors are also awaiting a speech from Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell at noon ET for clues on the health of the economy and his views on inflation.

The yield on the 10-year Treasury note edged higher to 1.648%, from 1.622% on Tuesday. Yields rise as prices fall.

Investors have pared back their government-bond holdings this year on concern that a sharp and protracted rise in inflation could curb the value of returns from fixed-income assets. Fed officials have said they expect any sharp uptick in inflation over the coming months to be temporary, and that they will keep loose monetary policy in place for the foreseeable future.

"I think it is going to become clear later this year that inflation is going to stay above 2%, and I don't think the bond market is going to allow the Fed to do nothing," said Mr. Donabedian. "We have seen a tidal wave of liquidity and the path of least resistance is upward."

Prices of cryptocurrencies led by bitcoin surged to record levels Wednesday ahead of the public listing of Coinbase Global. Bitcoin hit an all-time high of $64,228 apiece, ether climbed as high as $2,388 and dogecoin -- the meme cryptocurrency created as a joke -- surged 83% to $0.14, according to CoinDesk.

Overseas, the Stoxx Europe 600 gauge edged up 0.3%. In Asia, major stock indexes ended the day mostly higher. Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index rose 1.4%, and the Shanghai Composite Index rose 0.6%. Japan's Nikkei 225 fell 0.4%.

Write to Will Horner at and Michael Wursthorn at


(END) Dow Jones Newswires

April 14, 2021 11:58 ET (15:58 GMT)

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