Dow, S&P 500 end at record highs Monday as stock market rallies amid further vaccine progress

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Stocks clinched a fresh round of records Monday, as alarming U.S. COVID-19 infection rates and hospitalizations were overshadowed by promising vaccine developments.

The least-loved sectors and industries were given a boost as investors rotated away from shares of companies that thrived in the stay-at-home environment created by the pandemic.

What did major benchmarks do?

The Dow Jones Industrial Average DJIA, +1.59% climbed 470.63 points, or 1.6%, to end at a record 29,952.22, after setting a new intraday high, to clinch its first record close since Feb. 2. The blue-chip index finished a mere 50 points from a milestone at 30,000.

The S&P 500 SPX, +1.16% gained 41.76 points, or 1.2%, to close at a record 3,626.91. The Nasdaq Composite COMP, +0.80% rose 94.84 points, or 0.8%, finishing at 11,924.13, its third-highest close on record.

The small-cap Russell 2000 RUT, +2.36% also rose 2.1% to end at a record 1,785.34.

It was the first time that the Dow, S&P 500 and Russell 2000 each set new closing records on the same day since Jan. 22, 2018, according to Dow Jones Market Data.

Read: Dow marks fastest bear-market recovery in 30 years

In One Chart: Small-cap stocks ‘remain pretty seriously underloved’ despite vaccine-fueled gains

What drove the market?

The “great rotation” away from growth-oriented technology stocks into downtrodden shares of companies that make goods and provide services, tethering them to the U.S. economic recovery, deepened on Monday.

“Value is rocking and rolling and it’s up because of the vaccine news,” said Kent Engelke, chief economic strategist at Capitol Securities Management. “That’s showing, at least in my view, the underlying strength that might come back into the economy.”

Moderna MRNA, +9.57% said its COVID-19 experimental vaccine cut COVID-19 infections by 94.5%. The company said it plans to submit an Emergency Use Authorization with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in the coming weeks. Moderna shares rose 9.6%.

Last week’s rally was inspired after Pfizer PFE, -3.34% and BioNTech SE BNTX, -13.66% on Nov. 9 announced that their vaccine candidate was more than 90% effective in preventing COVID-19 infections in a late-stage trial.

“A vaccine was a dream in March, it’s a near reality today. That may not help during the current surge, but it does promise relief by mid-2021,” said James Meyer, chief investment officer at Tower Bridge Advisors.

The U.S. has been averaging 150,000 new cases a day, a soaring 81% increase from the average two weeks ago, according to a New York Times tracker, and a trajectory that Peter Hotez, dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine and professor of pediatrics and molecular virology and microbiology at Baylor College of Medicine called a pending “humanitarian catastrophe,” on CNN.

Even Sweden, known for its lax social-distancing requirements when compared with its Nordic neighbors, switched course and ordered a ban on public events of more than eight people.

Tech shares and other stay-at-home beneficiaries slumped again Monday after lagging last week, but hard-hit industries and sectors, including airlines, energy, financials and retail, benefited.

Read: Stock-market investors are ‘living through 3 transitions’ and short-term volatility may be ‘gut wrenching’

Deal-related news also was in focus, PNC Financial Services Group Inc. PNC, +2.85% agreed to buy the U.S. arm of Spain’s BBVA in an $11.6 billion transaction, the companies said Monday, in one of the largest bank tie-ups since the financial crisis. PNC shares rose 2.9%, while BBVA shares surged 12.6%.

Meanwhile, investors looked past what could be a tough period due to COVID-19 spread and a stalled transition of power, as President Donald Trump continued to refuse to accept the results of the Nov. 3 presidential election.

Read: Dates to watch as Trump continues legal fight to overturn the presidential election result

President-elect Joe Biden spoke Monday after meeting U.S. business leaders on the economic recovery. “We are going into a very dark winter,” Biden said, while emphasizing the need for infrastructure spending that creates jobs, as well as for Congress to come together and provide additional, urgent funding for states, cities and front-line workers during the pandemic.

“The S&P 500 is having its best November in decades,” said Lindsey Bell, chief investment strategist for Ally Invest, in emailed commentary.

But Bell also said that it remains unclear if vaccine hopes will bolster consumer spending during the holidays “a crucial period” that “could provide clues into what the next leg of the economic recovery will look like.”

Federal Reserve Vice Chairman Richard Clarida on Monday outlined a broad new set of employments measures to be used by the central bank, including labor-force participation, to determine when the economy has returned to maximum employment and at what point to consider raising interest rates from its current range between 0% and 0.25%. Clarida also said he wasn’t concerned with the recent rise in government bond yields.

In economic data, the New York Federal Reserve Bank’s Empire State index came in at a reading of 6.3 from 10.5 in October.

Which companies were in focus?
  • Retailers got a boost Monday from vaccine hopes, helping to push shares toward strong monthly gains, including those of Nordstrom Inc JWN, +10.86%, Macy’s Inc., J.C. Penney Co. Inc. JCPNQ, +14.65%, Gap Inc. GPS, +9.47% and others.
  • Apple Inc. AAPL, +0.87% shares gained 0.9%, even as it faced two strategic privacy complaints in Europe by Max Schrems, a digital activist who has successfully taken on Facebook’s user data practices.
  • Tyson Foods Inc.  TSN, +3.83% stock rose 3.8% after the meat processor reported fiscal fourth-quarter earnings that beat expectations and declared a dividend for fiscal 2021.
  • Hilton Worldwide Holdings Inc. HLT, +0.73% said Monday it will offer $1 billion worth of senior notes to redeem previously issued debt. The stock rallied 0.7%.
  • High-end mall developer Taubman Centers Inc. agreed to accept a price cut in its takeover by Simon Property Group Inc. SPG, in a move that will allow the companies to avoid a drawn-out legal battle that was set to kick off on Monday. Simon will pay $43 a share for Taubman under the new deal, they said Sunday. That is down from the original price of $52.50. Simon shares rose 5.7%, while Taubman shares climbed 8.5%.
  • Casper Sleep Inc. CSPR, -13.59% shares fell 13.6% after the mattress-in-a-box seller saw a wider-than-expected third-quarter loss due to an unexpected decline in revenue. Casper cited supply chain challenges as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
How did other assets trade?

The yield on the 10-year Treasury note TMUBMUSD10Y, 0.904% rose 1.4 basis point to 0.906%. Bond prices move in the opposite direction of yields.

The ICE U.S. Dollar Index DXY, -0.20%, a gauge of the greenback’s strength against its major rivals, was down 0.2%.

The pan-European Stoxx 600 index SXXP, +1.18% closed up 1.2%, while the U.K.’s FTSE 100 index UKX, +1.66% Z00, -0.10% climbed 1.7%.

Crude-oil futures rose, with the U.S. benchmark CLZ20, +3.33% finishing up 3% at $41.34 a barrel. Meanwhile, gold futures GCZ20, +0.09% rose $1.60. or 0.8%, to close at $1,887.80 an ounce.

William Watts contributed reporting