S&P 500 gains on COVID-19 vaccine, stimulus hopes

By Reuters

(Reuters) – The S&P 500 edged higher on Monday as promising data across a range of COVID-19 vaccine candidates and hopes of more stimulus helped overcome fears around the extent of the economic damage from a surge in domestic infections.FILE PHOTO: Traders wearing masks work, on the first day of in-person trading since the closure during the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) on the floor at the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York, U.S., May 26, 2020. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

U.S. drugmaker Pfizer (PFE.N) and German biotech firm BioNTech (BNTX.O) reported additional data from their experimental COVID-19 vaccine that showed it was safe and induced an immune response in patients. Pfizer’s shares rose 1.5%.

In the United Kingdom, data from AstraZeneca’s (AZN.L) experimental COVID-19 vaccine also showed it produced an immune response in early-stage clinical trials in healthy volunteers.

“Even though we had some good vaccine news, the Phase-3 trials for many of these things is the hardest part and is very difficult to get through,” said Elliott Savage, portfolio manager of the YCG Enhanced Fund in Austin, Texas.

“At this point, the fiscal stimulus is the next thing on investors’ mind. If there were a big audacious kind of fiscal stimulus package, then that could definitely cause the market to move higher.”

Congress is set to debate a new aid package this week with some support programmes due to expire by the end of the month and record levels of new COVID-19 cases forcing many states to back-pedal their reopening plans.

Signs of progress on a potential coronavirus vaccine, improving economic data and a relatively upbeat start to the second-quarter earnings season helped the S&P 500 and the Dow rise for three consecutive weeks.

The benchmark S&P 500 is now about 5% down from its Feb. 19 record close.

At 10:37 a.m. ET, the Dow Jones Industrial Average .DJI was down 48.50 points, or 0.18%, at 26,623.45, while the S&P 500 .SPX was up 10.83 points, or 0.34%, at 3,235.56.

The Nasdaq Composite .IXIC was up 118.64 points, or 1.13%, at 10,621.83, boosted by a 4% jump in Amazon.com Inc (AMZN.O) after two brokerages raised their price targets on the retail giant’s shares, and a 2% rise in Microsoft Corp’s (MSFT.O) shares.

Energy .SPNY and industrials .SPLRCI led the decliners among the major S&P sectors. Only technology .SPLRCT and consumer discretionary .SPLRCD were trading higher.

Oilfield services giant Halliburton Co (HAL.N) rose 5% as it posted a surprise adjusted profit, benefiting from aggressive cost cuts.

Noble Energy Inc’s (NBL.O) shares jumped 6.5% as Chevron Corp (CVX.N) agreed to buy the Houston-based oil and gas producer for $5 billion in an all-stock deal. Chevron fell 2.2%.

This week, major companies including Microsoft Corp (MSFT.O), Tesla Inc (TSLA.O), Intel Corp (INTC.O) and Honeywell International Inc (HON.N) are expected to report quarterly results.

Declining issues outnumbered advancers 1.69-to-1 on the NYSE and 1.12-to-1 on the Nasdaq.

The S&P index recorded 24 new 52-week highs and no new low, while the Nasdaq recorded 71 new highs and five new lows.

Reporting by Devik Jain and Medha Singh in Bengaluru; Editing by Shounak Dasgupta and Saumyadeb Chakrabarty.

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