US stocks close at records, brushing off virus fears

Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange on Feb 7, 2020.
Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange on Feb 7, 2020.PHOTO: AFP

NEW YORK (AFP) - Wall Street stocks hit new records on Wednesday (Feb 12), once again closing higher as investors remained confident that a virus outbreak in China will not imperil the global economy.

The death toll from the Covid-19 coronavirus epidemic in China climbed past 1,100 earlier, but the number of new cases fell for a second straight day raising hopes the outbreak could peak later this month which consoled investors, analysts said.

However, Karl Haeling of LBBW said in China "getting consumers and businesses back to full operating mode will take time."

The benchmark Dow Jones Industrial Average finished with a gain of 0.9 per cent at 29,551.42.

The tech-rich Nasdaq also rose 0.9 per cent to end at 9,725.96, and the broad-based S&P 500 rose by 0.7 per cent to 3,379.45 - both scoring their third consecutive record close.

US politics also is starting to get the attention of markets, after leftist Senator Bernie Sanders's came away with a victory in the New Hampshire Democratic primary on Tuesday.

Gregori Volokhine of Meeschaert Financial Services said traders saw Sanders win as a positive sign since he is seen as unlikely to defeat President Donald Trump and implement his progressive policies including universal health care.

"The bet is that Sanders won't make it to the White House," Volokhine said, pointing to health insurer UnitedHealth Group's 4.4 per cent rise in share price.

Speaking to Congress for a second day of testimony, Federal Reserve chairman Jerome Powell repeated his generally upbeat outlook for the US economy, meaning there is little interest in raising interest rates.

"We're breaking all records. The glass is absolutely full of everything the markets could possibly want," Volokhine said.