Tuesday, January 23, 2018
Business

Stocks hit record highs after ECB takes new steps

NEW YORK — New steps from the European Central Bank to revive the region's flagging economy gave markets a lift Thursday, pushing the Standard & Poor's 500 index and the Dow Jones Industrial Average to record highs.

The ECB cut two key interest rates, pushing one of them below zero. The unusual move means the ECB will charge banks to hold their money instead of paying them interest. The goal is to arm-twist banks into lending money rather than stockpiling it.

ECB president Mario Draghi said the bank was willing to take more steps to support the region's economy if needed, including buying bonds.

The S&P 500 rose 12.58 points, or 0.7 percent, to close at 1,940.46. The Dow rose 98.58 points, or 0.6 percent, to 16,836.11.

"The world looks to be a safer place today," said Chris Rupkey, chief financial economist at the Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi in New York, in a note to clients. "If you lend money out, the ECB has money for you."

The United States and Europe are tightly connected through financial markets, the banking system and trade. Added together, the countries in the European Union make up the world's second-largest economy and buy roughly a fifth of all U.S. exports. Coca-Cola and other large corporations have blamed Europe's weak economy for hurting sales.

The ECB's move to support the region's economy came as welcome news, said Hank Smith of Haverford Trust. But it wasn't a big surprise. In recent weeks, research teams at big banks and strategists on Wall Street have issued scores of reports predicting just such a move.

"It was on everyone's radar screen," Smith said.

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