Monday, May 20, 2024

US stocks join global rally amid COVID treatment hopes

by Associated Press

NEW YORK (AP) — Stocks are climbing in early Monday trading on Wall Street, adding to their record-breaking run from last week.

The S&P 500 was up 0.7% after the first 25 minutes of trading, following up on solid gains for stock markets across much of Europe and Asia. The S&P 500 pushed further into record territory after last week recovering the last of its losses caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 149 points, or 0.5%, at 28.080, as of 9:55 a.m. Eastern time, and the Nasdaq composite was 0.7% higher.

Hope was rising as pharmaceutical companies continue to work toward a possible vaccine to halt the spread of COVID-19 and after President Donald Trump on Sunday approved an emergency authorization to allow the use of convalescent plasma to treat patients. The plasma comes from patients who have recovered from the coronavirus and have antibodies, and it may help people battling the disease, though global health officials say the therapy is still experimental.

Several companies involved in plasma-derived pharmaceuticals saw their stocks jump in morning trading. Kamada climbed 19.2%, and ADMA Biologics rallied 24.2%.

Rising hope for a COVID vaccine and treatment also helped shares of industries that have been badly beaten down by what’s become the new normal of pandemic life. Airlines climbed, for example, amid the possibility that people may feel safe enough to travel again in the future. Delta Air Lines rose 3.2%, and American Airlines Group added 3.3%.

The market’s gains were relatively broad, and roughly three out of four stocks in the S&P 500 were higher. That’s an important marker for analysts, as much of the stock market’s gains in its return to a record have come from only a handful of Big Tech companies.

Apple, Amazon, Microsoft and other tech giants have benefited from the pandemic because it’s accelerated work-from-home, shop-from-home and other trends that are very profitable for them. But all that concentration of gains in just a small cadre of companies can increase risk for the market.

Last week, the S&P 500 would have been down if not for the performance of a single stock. Apple’s 8.2% spurt, which also made it the first U.S. stock to be worth a total of $2 trillion, alone drove the S&P 500 to its all-time high. And the dominance for Big Tech in the stock market has been stretching back for years.

“This is not new news nor is it likely, in our view, to derail the new bull market,” Morgan Stanley equity strategist Michael Wilson wrote in a report. “However, we do think it’s a precursor to the first tradable correction, which could begin imminently.”

Beyond the concentration of the market’s gains in one sector, several other risks also continue to hang over the market.

Congress is continuing to argue about whether and how to deliver another round of aid to the economy. Investors say the assistance is crucial following the expiration of weekly unemployment benefits and other stimulus from Washington’s last round of aid.

Critics also say the market may have run too high, too quickly, even after acknowledging that investors are setting prices for stocks now based on where they see earnings trending in the future. The S&P 500 is trading at levels last seen when the dot-com bubble was deflating in the early 2000s, based on stock prices relative to expected earnings in the next 12 months.

Some investors, meanwhile, are worrying about the economy backtracking on its budding improvements the longer Congress waits to deliver more support for the economy.

Of course, underlying all that remains the Federal Reserve. It has slashed short-term interest rates to nearly zero and is likely to keep them there for a while. At the same time, it continues to buy reams of bonds to support markets and the economy.

Investors are waiting to hear from Fed Chair Jerome Powell later this week at a speech that he would normally give at Jackson Hole, Wyoming. But the 2020 economic policy symposium will be online. Investors closely follow speeches given at the annual Jackson Hole event, where Fed officials in the past have made huge market-moving headlines about interest-rate policy. This year’s event is titled “Navigating the Decade Ahead: Implications for Monetary Policy.”

The yield on the 10-year Treasury dipped to 0.62% from 0.64% late Friday.

In European stock markets, the German DAX returned 2.2%. France’s CAC 40 rose 2.1%, and the FTSE 100 in London added 1.6%.

In Asia, Japan’s Nikkei 225 rose 0.3%, and the Kospi in Seoul gained 1.1%. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng climbed 1.7%, and stocks in Shanghai added 0.1%.

Benchmark U.S. crude oil was up 0.1% at $42.39 per barrel. Brent crude, the international standard, 0.9% to $44.72 per barrel.

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