Dow, S&P 500, Nasdaq end at records on Covid-19 vaccine, pandemic stimulus hopes

The surge was fuelled by coronavirus vaccine developments and Congress nearing a deal on stimulus spending. PHOTO: REUTERS

NEW YORK (AFP) - Wall Street stocks surged to fresh records on Thursday (Dec 17), fuelled by optimism about the 2021 outlook as coronavirus vaccines advance and Congress appears close to a deal on stimulus spending.

All three major indices ended at all-time highs, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average up 0.5 per cent to 30,303.37.

The broad-based S&P 500 gained 0.6 per cent, ending at 3,722.48, while the Nasdaq Composite Index jumped 0.8 per cent to 12,764.75, finishing at a record for the third straight session.

The records came despite some increasing signs of economic distress in the wake of the latest rise in coronavirus cases.

And data Thursday showed an unexpected jump in jobless claims after a report earlier in the week revealed a drop in retail sales.

Investors also shrugged off the latest grim figures on the US coronavirus outbreak, with more than 3,700 deaths and more than 250,000 new Covid-19 cases in 24 hours, according to Johns Hopkins University.

Still, markets charged higher as long-stalled congressional talks on stimulus appeared to be entering the home-stretch and US experts met to discuss a Covid-19 vaccine from Moderna expected to lead to imminent regulatory approval.

"The market is really showing some great resilience to selling pressure," said analyst Patrick O'Hare.

"The market is seeing bad data... yet it still rallies because it still is fixated on a 2021 recovery."

Among individual companies, Moderna jumped 5.1 per cent as its vaccine candidate neared regulatory approval following earlier approval of a Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.

The small Massachusetts-based biotech firm teamed up with scientists from the US National Institutes of Health on the product and has received more than US$2.5 billion (S$3.3 billion) from the US government for its efforts.

Meanwhile, Tesla jumped 5.3 per cent in its latest surge ahead of its debut next week as part of the prestigious S&P 500 index.

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