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Vaccine hopes a shot in the arm for antsy markets

by STAN CHOE, DAMIAN J. TROISE AND ALEX VEIGA THE ASSOCIATED PRESS | July 16, 2020 at 2:06 a.m.
A man walks past an electronic stock board showing Japan's Nikkei 225 index at a securities firm in Tokyo Wednesday, July 15, 2020. Shares were mostly higher in Asia on Wednesday as investors were encouraged by news that an experimental COVID-19 vaccine under development by Moderna and the U.S. National Institutes of Health revved up people’s immune systems just as desired. (AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko)

NEW YORK -- Markets worldwide rallied on rising hopes for a coronavirus vaccine Wednesday, and the S&P 500 climbed back to where it was a few days after it set its record early this year.

Investors see a vaccine as the best way for the economy and human life to get back to normal, and researchers said late Tuesday that one developed by the National Institutes of Health and Moderna revved up people's immune systems in early testing, as hoped. The S&P 500 rose 0.9% to pull within 4.7% of its all-time high set in February.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average climbed 227.51 points, or 0.85%, to 26,870.10, and the Nasdaq composite gained 61.91, or 0.6%, to 10,550.49. During the morning, the S&P 500 touched its highest level since Feb. 25, and it ended the day at 3,226.56, up 29.04.

Several things helped lift the market, including stronger-than-expected reports on the economy and on corporate profits from Goldman Sachs and others. But the vaccine hopes were at the center of the rise, which meant the market's leaderboard was dominated by companies that would benefit most from a return to normal life. They included cruise-ship operators, airlines, retailers and hotel chains.

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Stocks of smaller companies also leaped much more than the rest of the market, an indication of rising expectations for the economy. The Russell 2000 index of small-cap stocks jumped 3.5%, a turnaround from earlier months when big, tech-oriented companies were carrying the market.

"Investors are gaining more confidence of the longer-term direction of the market," said Sam Stovall, chief investment strategist at CFRA. "It's not just the behemoth tech stocks that are likely to lead share prices higher, but that mid- and small-cap stocks will also benefit, not only from an economic recovery, but also from very low interest rates."

Winners of the stay-at-home economy created by quarantines and lockdowns, meanwhile, lagged behind. Clorox, Netflix and Amazon all fell.

Wednesday's lift for markets, though, came only after another day of choppy trading. The S&P 500 shot to a quick 1.3% gain shortly after trading began, only to give up nearly all of it before swinging a couple more times.

It's the latest bout of erratic trading for the market, which has been largely churning in place for weeks. The S&P 500 is almost exactly where it was on June 8. Often, it's swung sharply within a single day as hopes for a budding economic recovery collide with continuing increases in coronavirus counts.

On Wednesday, as Wall Street was losing its stride, Florida announced another daily death toll of more than 100 and Oklahoma's governor said he tested positive for the coronavirus.

"People should be thinking about a balance of optimism and realism," said Nela Richardson, investment strategist at Edward Jones.

Goldman Sachs rose 1.4% after it reported much stronger results for the latest quarter than analysts expected. Financial stocks in general did well, with those in the S&P 500 up 1.9%.

Other areas of the market where profits are closely tied to the strength of the economy were also particularly strong. Industrial stocks rose 2.6% for the biggest gain among the 11 sectors that make up the S&P 500, and energy producers gained 2%.

The yield on the 10-year Treasury note rose to 0.63% from 0.61% late Tuesday. It tends to move with investors' expectations for the economy and inflation.

In Europe, Germany's DAX returned 1.8%, while the CAC 40 in Paris advanced 2%. Britains FTSE 100 picked up 1.8%.

In Asia, Tokyo's Nikkei 225 advanced 1.6% after the Bank of Japan kept its ultra-easy monetary stance unchanged. It forecast that the economy would improve later in the year, assuming there is no major "second wave" of outbreaks of the new coronavirus.

Information for this article was contributed by Elaine Kurtenbach of The Associated Press.

A man walks past an electronic stock board showing Japan's Nikkei 225 and New York Dow indexes at a securities firm in Tokyo Wednesday, July 15, 2020. Shares were mostly higher in Asia on Wednesday as investors were encouraged by news that an experimental COVID-19 vaccine under development by Moderna and the U.S. National Institutes of Health revved up people’s immune systems just as desired. (AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko)
A man walks past an electronic stock board showing Japan's Nikkei 225 and New York Dow indexes at a securities firm in Tokyo Wednesday, July 15, 2020. Shares were mostly higher in Asia on Wednesday as investors were encouraged by news that an experimental COVID-19 vaccine under development by Moderna and the U.S. National Institutes of Health revved up people’s immune systems just as desired. (AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko)
A woman walks past an electronic stock board showing Japan's Nikkei 225 and other Asian countries indexes at a securities firm in Tokyo Wednesday, July 15, 2020. Shares were mostly higher in Asia on Wednesday as investors were encouraged by news that an experimental COVID-19 vaccine under development by Moderna and the U.S. National Institutes of Health revved up people’s immune systems just as desired. (AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko)
A woman walks past an electronic stock board showing Japan's Nikkei 225 and other Asian countries indexes at a securities firm in Tokyo Wednesday, July 15, 2020. Shares were mostly higher in Asia on Wednesday as investors were encouraged by news that an experimental COVID-19 vaccine under development by Moderna and the U.S. National Institutes of Health revved up people’s immune systems just as desired. (AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko)
A man looks at an electronic stock board showing Japan's Nikkei 225 index at a securities firm in Tokyo Wednesday, July 15, 2020. Shares were mostly higher in Asia on Wednesday as investors were encouraged by news that an experimental COVID-19 vaccine under development by Moderna and the U.S. National Institutes of Health revved up people’s immune systems just as desired. (AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko)
A man looks at an electronic stock board showing Japan's Nikkei 225 index at a securities firm in Tokyo Wednesday, July 15, 2020. Shares were mostly higher in Asia on Wednesday as investors were encouraged by news that an experimental COVID-19 vaccine under development by Moderna and the U.S. National Institutes of Health revved up people’s immune systems just as desired. (AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko)
A man stands in front of an electronic stock board showing Japan's Nikkei 225 index at a securities firm as a car passes by in Tokyo Wednesday, July 15, 2020. Shares were mostly higher in Asia on Wednesday as investors were encouraged by news that an experimental COVID-19 vaccine under development by Moderna and the U.S. National Institutes of Health revved up people’s immune systems just as desired. (AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko)
A man stands in front of an electronic stock board showing Japan's Nikkei 225 index at a securities firm as a car passes by in Tokyo Wednesday, July 15, 2020. Shares were mostly higher in Asia on Wednesday as investors were encouraged by news that an experimental COVID-19 vaccine under development by Moderna and the U.S. National Institutes of Health revved up people’s immune systems just as desired. (AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko)
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