Written by DAMIAN J. TROISE and ALEX VEIGA AP Business Writers
Steady gains throughout the day delivered another round of record highs for major indexes on Wall Street Tuesday. The S&P 500 rose 0.3%. The tech-heavy Nasdaq also hit a 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 gains, which came after a shaky start for the market, came as the U.K. became the first Western country to start a mass vaccination program. U.S. regulators have given a positive initial review of the vaccine and a decision to allow its use is expected within days.
THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. AP’s earlier story follows below.
Technology companies are helping push stocks higher on Wall Street Tuesday, placing the market within striking distance of more milestones.
The S&P 500 index was up 0.3%, and on pace to eclipse the all-time high it set on Friday. Some 60% of companies in the benchmark index were moving higher, led by technology and health care stocks. Small company stocks were among the biggest gainers, another sign of optimism among investors.
Stocks had been down in the early going on worries about rising coronavirus cases, but turned higher around midday. Investors are looking ahead to Thursday, when U.S. regulators will meet to determine whether to green-light the distribution of a COVID-19 vaccine developed by U.S. drugmaker Pfizer and Germany’s BioNTech.
The U.K. became the first Western country to start a mass vaccination program after British regulators last week authorized the use of the vaccine. On Tuesday, U.S. health regulators issued a positive initial review of that vaccine and a decision to allow its use is expected within days, however wide distribution is likely months away. Meanwhile, governments worldwide have been tightening restrictions on businesses in an effort to stem the latest surge in cases.
“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.”
Investors are also keeping a close eye on Washington. Congress is still stuck in a partisan stalemate over the size and scope of any additional aid to help cushion the financial impact to people and businesses. The economy has been showing signs of a stalled recovery as the virus surge broadens nationally, including slower job growth in the U.S. last month.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 97.51 points, or 0.3%, to 30,168 as of 3:13 p.m. Eastern time. The tech-heavy Nasdaq composite was up 0.5%. The Russell 2000 index of small companies was up 1.2%. The S&P 500, Nasdaq and Russell 2000 were all within striking distance of record highs.
Big Tech stocks that have been big winners during the pandemic helped lift the market Tuesday. Apple rose 0.9% and Microsoft gained 1%.
Health care stocks made solid gains. Pfizer rose 2.7% and Johnson & Johnson rose 1.6%. Energy companies also rose. Exxon added 3.4%.
Shop-from-home clothing seller Stitch Fix soared 40.1% after reporting a surprise profit in its latest quarter. Etsy jumped 4.6%.
A mix of companies that rely on direct consumer spending and those that would greatly benefit from a fuller economic recovery continued to see a bit of churn. The moves reflect the constant push-and-pull of hope for an eventual economic recovery pitted against the continued economic damage inflicted by the pandemic.
Cruise line operators gained ground, including a 5.7% rise from Norwegian Cruise Line. The sector very much needs the virus to recede in order to get back to normal operations. Other companies that need a more normal economy in order to recover are still slipping. Darden Restaurants, which operates Olive Garden, fell 0.7%.
Overall, many of the companies that have been beaten down have been doing better as investors see an eventual end to the pandemic. There’s been a push for broader investments in many of those industries and not much pullback, said Andrew Slimmon, senior portfolio manager at Morgan Stanley Investment Management.
“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 remained steady at 0.91% from late Monday.
European markets closed mixed. France’s CAC 40 fell 0.2%, Germany’s DAX and the FTSE 100 in London each rose 0.1%. Asian markets declined.