By Mark DeCambre and Barbara Kollmeyer
U.S. stocks finished higher Wednesday, with the major indexes near record highs, aided partly by news suggesting the omicron variant of the coronavirus may not disrupt economies as much as feared.
A report from Pfizer and BioNTech indicating that a third dose of their COVID-19 vaccine neutralized omicron in laboratory tests, but that a two-dose regimen is less effective, appeared to offer some solace to the bulls.
How did stock benchmarks trade?
The S&P 500 index /zigman2/quotes/210599714/realtime SPX -1.10% rose by about 14.46 points, or 0.3%, to 4,701.21, just under the broad-market index’s record closing high at 4,704.54.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average /zigman2/quotes/210598065/realtime DJIA -0.89% edged up 35.32 points, or 0.1%, to end at 35,754.75, after vacillating throughout the day.
The Nasdaq Composite Index /zigman2/quotes/210598365/realtime COMP -1.30% saw its gains firm, up 100.07 points, or 0.6%, to reach 15,786.99, but did touch an intraday low at 15,618.88.
On Tuesday , the Dow Jones Industrial Average /zigman2/quotes/210598065/realtime DJIA -0.89% rose 492.4 points, or 1.4%, to 35,719.43, the S&P 500 index /zigman2/quotes/210599714/realtime SPX -1.10% advanced 95.08 points, or 2.1%, to 4,686.75 and the Nasdaq Composite /zigman2/quotes/210598365/realtime COMP -1.30% jumped 461.76 points, or 3%, to 15,686.92.
What’s drove the market?
Stocks clinched a third day of gains, driven partly by investors hunting for bargains in the wake of selling after the omicron variant in South Africa was announced in late November.
“In theory, such strong gains are sign of instability and should be taken with caution, however the good news is that the volatility is easing, and the VIX index dropped 20% yesterday, meaning that the latest fears could slowly begin fading,” said Ipek Ozkardeskaya, senior analyst at Swissquote in a note to clients.
Stock-index futures jumped early Wednesday after Pfizer and BioNTech reported results from an “initial laboratory study” showing their COVID-19 vaccine neutralized the omicron variant of the coronavirus after three doses — the full two-dose regimen plus a booster shot.
The Pfizer report came after, a small study from South African scientists showed that the variant may partially evade vaccines , but vaccinations should still defend against more serious disease. Those doubly vaccinated with a previous COVID infection showed greater resistance to the variant, raising hopes that boosters may keep people safer, the study showed.
GlaxoSmithKline’s /zigman2/quotes/200381158/delayed UK:GSK -1.79% /zigman2/quotes/209463850/composite GSK -1.77% assessment that its antibody treatment also appears to work against omicron, cheered investors on Tuesday.
But elsewhere, there were reports of a “stealth” omicron offshoot that was more difficult to identify via standard PCR tests, with Australia’s Queensland government confirming one case, and others found in South Africa and Canada.
Also lifting markets lately is the perception that the Federal Reserve’s more hawkish tilt has been digested and priced in, said Ozkardeskaya, but the analyst and others remain wary.
“While the buy-everything trade will have its day in the sun for the rest of this week, some serious non-virus risk points are looming,” Jeffrey Halley, senior market analyst at OANDA, told clients in a note. “Friday sees US CPI [consumer price inflation] and a print at or above 7.0% is going to raise the heat at next week’s FOMC.”