Big Tech Rally Props Up Wall Street

NEW YORK (AP) -- A big rally for Microsoft and other Big Tech stocks is helping to prop up Wall Street Wednesday, a day after stocks tumbled to their worst drop in a month.

The S&P 500 was 0.2% higher in early trading, though the worries about U.S. banks that hit the market a day before remain. The Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 58 points, or 0.2%, at 33,589, as of 9:45 a.m. Eastern time, while the Nasdaq composite was leading the market with a 0.9% gain.

Tech stocks pushed upward on indexes after Microsoft reported stronger profit for the first three months of the year than analysts expected. It jumped 7%, and it carries a huge weight on the S&P 500 because it's the second-largest stock in the index.

Tech stocks have been some of the year's best performers so far as they've laid off workers and made other cost cuts to improve their profitability. Hopes for a coming pause from the Federal Reserve on its barrage of hikes to interest rates have also helped them in particular.

Google's parent company, Alphabet, was drifting following its earnings report. It turned a bigger profit than expected, but it also reported its first back-to-back drops in advertising revenue from a year earlier since it became a publicly traded company in 2004. Its stock was 0.7% higher after erasing an earlier loss.

More Big Tech companies are scheduled to follow with their own reports soon. Facebook's parent company, Meta Platforms, rose 2.1% ahead of its report, which is due after trading closes for the day.

Chipotle Mexican Grill jumped 11.1%, the biggest gain in the S&P 500, after reporting stronger profit than expected. It was one of a few companies that raised hopes consumer spending could remain resilient despite a slowing economy. That's key because it makes up the bulk of the U.S. economy.

Visa rose 1.1% after in another signal for consumer spending. It also reported stronger earnings than expected.

On the opposite side of Wall Street was First Republic Bank. It lost another 16.8%, a day after it nearly halved on worries about an exodus of customers in March.

They yanked more than $100 billion out of the bank during the first three months of the year after the second- and third-largest U.S. bank failures in history rattled confidence. That doesn't include $30 billion that big banks deposited to try to build faith in their rival.

Wall Street's focus has been on the smaller and mid-sized banks that could suffer debilitating runs of deposits from customers, similar to the ones that toppled Silicon Valley Bank and Signature Bank.

PacWest Bancorp., another bank that's been in investors' spotlight, rose 12% after reporting stronger results than expected and saying that its deposits have grown since late March. That may offer optimism that First Republic's struggles could be specific to itself, rather than a symptom of deeper issues with the system.

All banks are contending with much higher interest rates, which have tightened the screws on the economy and financial markets after flying higher over the last year.

The Federal Reserve has hiked its key overnight interest rate to its highest level since 2007. It's trying to rein in high inflation, but its main tool to do so is a notoriously blunt one. High rates slow the entire economy and hurt prices for investments.

That has many investors and economists preparing for a possible recession. Besides the cracks in the banking system, high rates have already slowed the housing, manufacturing and other markets. The job market, meanwhile, remains relatively solid.

A report on Wednesday showed that orders for long-lasting manufactured goods were stronger in March than expected.

In the bond market, the yield on the 10-year Treasury dipped to 3.39% from 3.40% late Tuesday. It helps set rates for mortgages and other loans. The two-year Treasury yield, which more closely tracks expectations for the Fed, fell to 3.86% from 3.95%.