Vaccine optimism, improving data lift Wall Street

NEW YORK (Reuters) – U.S. stocks moved higher on Wednesday as rising hopes of a safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine eased concerns another round of lockdowns was likely following a record surge in coronavirus cases in the United States.

Pfizer Inc’s shares rose nearly 5% after the drugmaker said a COVID-19 vaccine being developed with German biotech firm BioNTech showed promise and was found to be well-tolerated in early-stage human trials.

The gains made Pfizer shares one of the top boosts to both the S&P 500 and Dow Industrials while U.S.-listed shares of BioNTech gained more than 8%, helping improve the mood on Wall Street after the United States registered 47,000 new coronavirus cases on Tuesday, the biggest one-day spike since the start of the pandemic.

Investors were also encouraged by some upbeat economic data as coronavirus-induced lockdowns have eased. A report on Wednesday showed a slump in global manufacturing had ebbed in June, with U.S. figures hitting their highest level in more than a year.

On Thursday, all eyes will be on the Labor Department’s nonfarm payrolls report.

“The macro data came in a little warmer than expected, which is nice, obviously nonfarm payrolls tomorrow is the big deal and the Pfizer vaccine news got everyone optimistically thinking,” said Mike Zigmont, head of trading and research at Harvest Volatility Management in New York.

Zigmont cautioned, however, that the market has been expecting a vaccine by early 2021 and without one a strong economic recovery is unlikely.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 9.87 points, or 0.04%, to 25,822.75, the S&P 500 gained 19.34 points, or 0.62%, to 3,119.63 and the Nasdaq Composite added 95.64 points, or 0.95%, to 10,154.40.

Updates on the progress in various COVID-19 vaccine programs are being closely watched by investors, and have been partly responsible for Wall Street’s recent rally.

The S&P 500 closed its best quarter since 1998 on Tuesday, fueled also by unprecedented levels of fiscal and monetary stimulus. Minutes from the Federal Reserve’s June policy meeting showed policymakers broadly agreed to make full use of the tools at the central bank’s disposal to support a recovery from the recession triggered by the coronavirus pandemic.

The Institute for Supply Management (ISM) said its index of national factory activity jumped to a reading of 52.6 last month from 43.1 in May, ending three straight months of contraction, or readings below 50.

The ADP National Employment Report on Wednesday showed U.S. private payrolls increased by 2.369 million jobs, but still less than expected in June.

Drugmaker Amgen Inc climbed 8.1% after a federal appeals court upheld two patents for the drugmaker’s multibillion-dollar rheumatoid arthritis drug Enbrel.

FedEx Corp jumped nearly 12% after posting better-than-expected quarterly profit and revenue, helped by a surge in pandemic-fueled home deliveries.

Advancing issues outnumbered declining ones on the NYSE by a 1.14-to-1 ratio; on Nasdaq, a 1.25-to-1 ratio favored decliners.

The S&P 500 posted 17 new 52-week highs and no new lows; the Nasdaq Composite recorded 75 new highs and 10 new lows.

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