Mark DeCambre, and Andrea Riquier
U.S. stock indexes closed sharply higher Friday, notching a pair of fresh records, as Wall Street wrapped up a week framed by optimism over the prospects of vaccines and treatments for COVID-19 and yet gloom over a spike in the viral outbreak in the U.S. and Europe.
Markets also remain sensitive to talk of the possibility of another fiscal aid package that could help workers and businesses, despite a lack of political momentum to achieve a pact in the aftermath of a contentious U.S. presidential election.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average /zigman2/quotes/210598065/realtime DJIA +0.89% closed up 399.64 points, or 1.4%, to reach 29,479.81, and briefly traded higher than its Feb. 12 closing record at 29,551.42.
Meanwhile, the S&P 500 index /zigman2/quotes/210599714/realtime SPX +0.77% gained 48.14 points to close at 3,585.15, for a gain of 1.4%, a fresh record. The Nasdaq Composite Index /zigman2/quotes/210598365/realtime COMP +0.51% climbed 119.70 points, a gain of 1%, ending at 11,829.29.
For the week, the Dow gained 4.1%, the S&P 500 index added 2.2%, and the Nasdaq /zigman2/quotes/210598365/realtime COMP +0.51% slipped 0.6%.
The small-cap Russell 2000 /zigman2/quotes/210598147/delayed RUT +0.04% beat them all, gaining 6.1% for the week and notching a fresh high of its own on Friday, at 17,44.04. The last time the Russell 2000 and the S&P 500 closed at a record high on the same day was Aug. 29, 2018, according to Dow Jones Market Data.
Stocks gained for a second week on hopes for a COVID-19 treatment, but questions remain about the outlook as parts of the world face fresh lockdowns to address a new spread of the virus.
“For all the optimism about the delivery of a successful vaccine, the reality is that the announcement of a possible candidate was never likely to be able to put a stop to what is currently playing out across Europe, as well as the US, in terms of a sharp rise in coronavirus infection rates, hospitalizations, and ultimately, a sharp rise in mortality rates,” wrote Michael Hewson, chief market analyst at CMC Markets UK in a note.
The U.S. set a record on Thursday for coronavirus hospitalizations of more than 67,000 as well as a record one-day coronavirus case tally of 163,405. The spread of the pathogen in New York City meant the daily case and positivity rate was 2.6%–and Mayor Bill de Blasio reiterated on Thursday that he would close schools if it hits 3% .
Earlier in the week the promise of an effective Pfizer /zigman2/quotes/202877789/composite PFE +1.78% and BioNTech /zigman2/quotes/214419716/composite BNTX +6.68% vaccine prompted investors to abandon technology stocks that benefit from the stay-at-home trend in favor of value-oriented plays that may benefit from economic recovery, but the latter part of the week has been more mixed.
Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell, during a webcast panel event with central bankers on Thursday, cautioned investors not to overplay reports of vaccines . “From our standpoint, it’s just too soon to assess with any confidence the implications of the news for the path of the economy, especially in the near term,” he said.
“The next few months could be challenging,” Powell said in the event that included European Central Bank President Christine Lagarde and Bank of England Gov. Andrew Bailey.
Meanwhile, the market is growing doubtful that another coronavirus aid package can be crafted soon by Congress, with a gulf remaining between Republicans and Democrats over the breadth and scale of a relief package to help out-of-work Americans and troubled businesses.
However, in a speech to the Economic Club of Memphis , St. Louis Fed President James Bullard said Friday that the U.S. labor market improved at a rapid pace this year compared with the aftermath of the 2008-2009 financial crisis. “Basically unemployment has come down from the peak very fast, I’m not sure you can really absorb how shocking this is,” he said, though he added that the U.S. needs to be more mindful of not letting the new wave of COVID-19 hobble the nascent recovery.
Meanwhile, better-than-expected results from the likes of Walt Disney Co . /zigman2/quotes/203410047/composite DIS +0.30% and Cisco Systems /zigman2/quotes/209509471/composite CSCO +0.35% also helped boost the buying mood on Wall Street on Friday. Also, Post-it maker and diversified industrial company 3M Co . /zigman2/quotes/205029460/composite MMM +1.16% said Friday sales rose 3% in October to $2.9 billion.
Investors are still keeping an eye on Joe Biden’s transition to the White House after he has been projected the winner of the 2020 U.S. presidential election against incumbent Donald Trump.
In economic reports, the producer-price index advanced 0.3% last month, the government said Friday . It has risen six months in a row since the economy reopened in May but wholesale inflation more broadly was largely muted. The increase in producer prices over the past 12 months edged up to 0.5% from 0.4%.
Separately, a report on consumer sentiment from the University of Michigan revealed worries bubbling up about the coronavirus resurgence, U.S. falling to 77 in November from a previous reading of 81.8.
The pan-European Stoxx 600 Europe Index /zigman2/quotes/210599654/delayed XX:SXXP +0.08% ended virtually unchanged on Friday at 385.18 and London’s FTSE 100 /zigman2/quotes/210598409/delayed UK:UKX -0.38% closed 0.4% lower.
Oil futures fell, with the U.S. benchmark , down 99 cents, or 2.4%, to settle at $40.13 a barrel but were scored an 8.1% weekly gain. Gold prices traded higher , with the December contract closing up $12.90, or 0.7%, to settle at $1,886.20. The precious metal still notched its biggest weekly loss since Sept.
The ICE U.S. Dollar Index /zigman2/quotes/210598269/delayed DXY +0.13% , a measure of the currency against a basket of six major rivals, was down 0.2% at 92.74.