US STOCKS-Nasdaq leads Wall Street's gains as Microsoft hits record high


By Sinéad Carew and Amruta Khandekar

Nov 20 (Reuters) - Wall Street's three major U.S. stock averages closed higher on Monday with Nasdaq leading gains as heavyweight Microsoft rallied after it hired prominent artificial intelligence executives, while lower Treasury yields also provided support.

The S&P 500 information technology sub-index .SPLRCT was the top gainer among the S&P 500's 11 major sectors, getting its biggest boost from Microsoft MSFT.Oshares which touched a record high.

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said Sam Altman, who headed OpenAI until he was ousted late last week, was set to join Microsoft to lead a new advanced AI research team. Microsoft will also take on Greg Brockman, another OpenAI cofounder, as well as other researchers.

The news set a positive tone for the technology sector, which was also lifted heavyweight stocks including Apple AAPL.O and Nvidia NVDA.O.

Investors have been cheering a better-than-expected earnings season and the ongoing trend of falling Treasury yields, said Bruce Zaro, managing director at Granite Wealth Management in Providence, Rhode Island.

"The market likes what it sees in the behaving bond market. It likes what it sees in earnings reports and it's in the holiday mood," said Zaro, noting that investors may be preparing for a rally which often comes with the year-end holiday season.

According to preliminary data, the S&P 500 .SPX gained 34.03 points, or 0.75%, to end at 4,548.05 points, while the Nasdaq Composite .IXIC gained 159.05 points, or 1.13%, to 14,284.53. The Dow Jones Industrial Average .DJI rose 203.76 points, or 0.60%, to 35,155.75.

Wall Street's main indexes have staged a rebound so far in November, after about three months of weakness as evidence of easing U.S. inflation supported bets that the Federal Reserve was done raising interest rates. The benchmark S&P 500 .SPX was also closing back in on its year-to-date high reached in July, just a little over 1% below the milestone.

Traders have nearly fully priced in the likelihood that the Fed will keep interest rates unchanged in December, and have started pricing in rate cuts as soon as March, according to the CME Group's FedWatch tool.

While trading volume is often thin ahead of Thursday's U.S. Thanksgiving holiday, investors will have at least two potential catalysts to monitor.

One is the quarterly report, due out on Tuesday from chip designer Nvidia NVDA.O, whose stock is seen as one of the best ways to bet on the emerging artificial intelligence industry. Nvidia's results will wrap up the earnings season for the so-called "Magnificent Seven" group of megacap companies.

Also on Tuesday, the Fed is expected to issue minutes of its November meeting, which may provide clues on the direction of U.S. interest rates.

Capping off the week, foot traffic at stores on Black Friday could provide a gauge on the state of U.S. consumer spending.

Among individual movers, Bristol Myers SquibbBMY.N fell as Germany's Bayer BAYGn.DE on Sunday stopped a late-stage trial testing a new anti-clotting drug, hurting investor confidence in all firms developing similar class of drugs.

BoeingBA.N rose after Deutsche Bank upgraded the aerospace company to "buy" from "hold" and raised its price target to $270 from $204.

Tech stocks take the lead in November

(Reporting by Sinéad Carew in New York, Amruta Khandekar and Shristi Achar A; Editing by Maju Samuel, Pooja Desai and Richard Chang)

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The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

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