Wall Street's Record-Breaking Streak Continues, Big Three Indexes at Highs

The records stretched into another day on Tuesday, Oct. 3, with all three major benchmark indexes carrying modest gains to new all-time highs. 

The Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 0.37%, the S&P 500 added 0.22%, and the Nasdaq gained 0.23%. The increases marked the Dow's second closing record in a row, the Nasdaq's third, and the S&P 500's fourth.

Even with markets at new highs, the trading range sits at its lowest level in decades. The S&P 500 has seen a move of at least 1% only eight times so far this year, according to LPL Research. That marks its least since 13 in 1995. Its lowest ever was just three in 1963.

"If you had forecast that the 11 months after the 2016 U.S. presidential election would be one of the least volatile periods ever, you would be in the minority," Ryan Detrick, senior market strategist at LPL Research, said in a note. "Then again, the last time we saw a streak of calm like this was the year after John F. Kennedy was assassinated in November 1963 -- once again proving that the market rarely does what the masses expect and usually surprises us."

The CBOE Volatility Index, otherwise known as the fear index, was up 1.6% to 9.61 on Tuesday. The measure remains near its lowest level since December 1993.

Walmart Stores Inc. (WMT)  led the Dow after the world's largest retailer acquired small New York-based company Parcel. The acquisition is a play to go head-to-head with Amazon.com Inc. (AMZN) in the same-day delivery market, first focusing on the New York City area. Details of the deal were not disclosed.

Other stocks in the non-cyclical consumer space were caught up in the momentum, including Procter & Gamble Co. (PG) , Anheuser-Busch InBev NV (BUD) , Ambev SA (ABEV) and CVS Health Corp. (CVS) . The Consumer Staples Select Sector SPDR ETF (XLP) increased 0.11%.

Their gains occurred during ongoing concerns about a mass shooting in Las Vegas on Sunday evening has been described by officials as the worst in the country's history. President Donald Trump called it an "act of pure evil." The attack, in which a gunman opened fire on a music festival from the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay Hotel and Casino late Sunday, Oct. 1, left 59 dead and 527 injured.

The gunman was identified as Stephen Craig Paddock, 64 years old, of Mesquite, Nevada, and authorities found 23 guns in the room where his body was discovered.

U.S. automakers, meanwhile, reported better-than-expected sales in September. General Motors Co.  (GM)  posted an 11.9% increase from a year ago, beating analysts' estimates for a 7.9% jump, amid gains of 17% at Chevrolet and 9% at GMC trucks.

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCAU) reported a 9.7% drop in unit sales to 174,266, better than an estimated 10.9% decline. By brand, Fiat sales fell 24%, Chrysler 16%, Jeep 4%, and Dodge 30%. At Jeep, Wrangler and Renegade sales increased 10% and 38%, respectively. 

Ford (F) said light vehicle deliveries increased 8.9% year over year, smashing projections for a 2.3% uptick. Truck sales jumped 19.9%, SUV sales rose 1.8%, but car sales sunk 1.3%.

Investors were also looking ahead to the September jobs report on Friday, Oct. 6, which will contain the first full month of data affected by Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria. Weekly jobless claims have already shown the initial impact, with the number of new applications for unemployment benefits seeing an uptick in recent weeks.

"Work disruptions due to Hurricanes Harvey and Irma are likely to knock down payroll growth substantially in September," Wells Fargo analysts wrote in a note. "It bears the potential to interrupt the 83 consecutive months of employment growth."

Wells Fargo expects 55,000 jobs to have been added to the U.S. economy in September, and economists surveyed by FactSet anticipate 75,000, either of which would be a sharp slowdown from 156,000 jobs in August. The measure has not fallen below the 100,000 mark since March and has only been below that threshold four times in the past five years.

Rough day for Wells Fargo.

In earnings news, Lennar Corp. (LEN)  reported better-than-expected third-quarter results. The homebuilder reported profit of $1.06 a share, up a nickel from a year earlier. Analysts anticipated earnings of a $1. Revenue of $3.26 billion came in higher than $3.24 billion consensus. Housing sales rose 17%, and home deliveries increased 12%. 

Paychex Inc. (PAYX) increased 3.6% after beating profit estimates and reporting a rise in sales. The company earned 62 cents a share over its fiscal first quarter, 2 cents higher than expected. Revenue grew 4% to $816.8 million, missing estimates by nearly $4 million.

On Capitol Hill, former Equifax Inc. (EFX) Chairman and CEO Richard Smith apologized to the American people during Congressional testimony for a data breach that exposed the personal data of nearly half the U.S. population.

In testimony, Smith said he takes "full responsibility." He said the failure to implement a software patch in March and an unsuccessful digital search for vulnerabilities were to blame.

Equifax said Monday that 2.5 million more U.S. customers were potentially impacted by the data breach, bringing the total to 145.5 million.

Tim Sloan, CEO of Wells Fargo & Co. (WFC) , appeared before the Senate Banking Committee on Tuesday to say the bank remains "deeply sorry" for its previous sales practices, and that in the year since the phony account scandal exploded it has substantially improved its culture. Sloan told the Senate that the action taken originally was "insufficient" and that he was angry with the way the bank "handled the problems."

Wells Fargo was fined $185 million for its illegal sales practices. The bank has said 3.5 million accounts were potentially opened without customers' permission between 2009 and 2016, as employees tried to meet ambitious sales targets. In comments to CNBC on Tuesday, billionaire investor Warren Buffett said the bank still "has my faith."

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