Stocks Swing, Yields Jump Thursday

NEW YORK (AP) -- Wall Street is shaky Thursday as investors consider both the upsides and downsides of the latest signals that the U.S. economy remains in much better shape than feared.

The S&P 500 was virtually unchanged in early trading after drifting between small gains and losses. The Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 91 points, or 0.3%, at 33,941, as of 9:45 a.m. Eastern time, and the Nasdaq composite was 0.1% lower.

Yields were jumping in the bond market after data showed the U.S. economy grew at a 2% annual rate in the first three months of the year, much stronger than the 1.3% rate earlier estimated. Another report said fewer workers applied for unemployment benefits last week than expected, a sign that the job market remains remarkably solid despite much higher interest rates meant to slow the overall economy.

"The US economy is currently displaying genuine signs of resilience," said Gregory Daco, chief economist at EY. "This is leading many to rightly question whether the long-forecast recession is truly inevitable."

On one hand, the data are a positive for investors because it suggests the economy can keep growing and support profits for companies, which are the lifeblood of the stock market. But on the other, it could also mean the Federal Reserve will see the economy as strong enough to keep hiking interest rates to drive down inflation.

The Fed has pulled rates higher at a blistering pace since early last year. High rates slow inflation by dragging on the entire economy, and they have already hurt the manufacturing and other industries while helping to cause three high-profile failures in the U.S. banking system.

Thursday's data pushed expectations among traders to jump for the Fed to raise rates twice more this year, according to data from CME Group. That's what the Fed has been suggesting it would do, but Wall Street has been slow to accept it. Earlier, it had been mostly penciling in just one increase.

The shift helped drive the two-year Treasury yield up to 4.87% from 4.71% late Wednesday. It tends to track expectations for Fed action.

The 10-year yield rose to 3.83% from 3.71%. It helps set rates for mortgages and other important loans.

In the stock market, banks were rising to some of the biggest gains. Wells Fargo rose 3.2%, M&T Bank gained 3.1% and JPMorgan Chase climbed 2.7%.

The Federal Reserve said late Wednesday that the nation's 23 largest banks would be able to survive a severe recession in its latest "stress test" of the system. A stronger economy could also help banks make more money from making loans, though higher interest rates could also pressure to their balance sheets.

Fed Reserve Chair Jerome Powell warned Thursday the central bank may have to tighten regulation of the system after several banks collapsed when rising rates knocked down the value of bonds they bought and other investments made when rates were ultralow.

Much scrutiny has been on smaller and mid-sized banks as Wall Street hunts for the next potential weak links in the system. Several rose Thursday to trim their big losses from earlier this year. PacWest Bancorp gained 5.9%, for example.

Rite Aid jumped 4.4% after reporting much stronger profit for the latest quarter than analysts expected.

On the losing end of Wall Street was Micron Technology. It fell 4.5% for the largest loss in the S&P 500 despite reporting stronger results for the latest quarter than expected. The memory and storage company also said it thinks the bottom has passed for its industry's revenue, and it expects profit margins to improve.