Steady Gains for Stocks Deliver More Records on Wall Street

(AP) -
A street sign is displayed at the New York Stock Exchange in New York. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig/File)

Technology and health care companies helped drive stocks to more gains Tuesday, leading to another round of milestones on Wall Street.

The S&P 500 index rose 0.3%, eclipsing the all-time high it set on Friday. The Nasdaq composite and Russell 2000 index of small company stocks also set record highs. The likelihood that one or more coronavirus vaccines could begin to be distributed in the U.S. in coming weeks has kept investors in a buying mood, boosting their optimism for an economic recovery next year.

The gains, which followed a shaky start for the market, came as the U.K. became the first Western country to start a mass vaccination program. On Tuesday, U.S. health regulators issued a positive initial review of a COVID-19 vaccine developed by U.S. drugmaker Pfizer and Germany’s BioNTech. A decision to allow its use is expected within days, though wide distribution is likely months away.

“The vaccine news and the focus on that is the most important thing for the market at the moment,” said Stephanie Roth, portfolio macro analyst, J.P. Morgan Private Bank. “At this point, the excitement is for the post-vaccine world.”

The S&P 500 rose 10.29 points to 3,702.25. The index had one of its best months in decades during November and is already up 2.2% so far this month. The Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 104.09 points, or 0.4%, to 30,173.88. The tech-heavy Nasdaq picked up 62.83 points, or 0.5%, to 12,582.77, marking its fourth straight record high.

Small-company stocks rose much more than the rest of the market, a signal that investors are feeling more optimistic about the economy. The Russell 2000 index climbed 26.53 points, or 1.4%, to 1,917.78.

Nearly 60% of the companies in the benchmark S&P 500 closed higher, with energy stocks notching the biggest gain. Stocks had been down in the early going on worries about rising coronavirus cases, but turned higher around midday. Traders are looking ahead to Thursday, when U.S. regulators will meet to determine whether to green-light the distribution of the vaccine developed by Pfizer and BioNTech.

Big Tech stocks that have been big winners during the pandemic helped power the rally Tuesday. Apple rose 0.5% and Microsoft gained 0.8%.

Health care stocks made solid gains. Pfizer rose 3.2% and Johnson & Johnson rose 1.7%. Exxon Mobil was among the big gainers in the energy sector, climbing 3.3%.

Shop-from-home clothing seller Stitch Fix soared 39.2% after reporting a surprise profit in its latest quarter. Etsy jumped 4.5%.

“It’s a very positive sign when you see very broad participation,” he said. “It tells me positioning is still in the process of moving more into cyclical stocks.”

The yield on the 10-year Treasury rose to 0.92% from 0.91% late Monday.

European markets closed mixed and Asian markets fell.