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Markets

Wall Street ends higher on stimulus optimism, Apple boost

  • Apple jumps on report of higher iPhone production in 2021.
  • Technology sector seen resilient through pandemic – analyst.
  • Utilities and materials sectors among strongest performers.
Published December 16, 2020

Wall Street surged on Tuesday, with its main indexes closing near record levels, helped by optimism about a potential government stimulus and bets on more signals of easy monetary policy from the Federal Reserve's final meeting of the year.

Apple Inc was the top boost to all three US benchmarks, surging to its highest since September after a report said it plans to increase iPhone production by 30% in the first half of 2021.

The Russell 2000 index of smaller companies surged to a record high.

Some investors viewed the recent spike in coronavirus infections and deaths and a grim November employment report as an impetus for a quick deal on a COVID-19 stimulus bill, with economically sensitive sectors such as consumer discretionary , materials leading gains.

The S&P 500 utilities index logged its strongest one-day gain since early November.

"They have lagged, and you could see a little bit of rotation of people looking for yield," said 6 Meridian Chief Investment Officer Andrew Mies, referring to utilities stocks.

Broad gains across the stock market were a healthy sign, Mies added.

US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi invited top congressional leaders to meet later on Tuesday in an effort to finalize a massive government spending deal and reach an agreement on a new package of coronavirus relief.

The Fed is also expected to signal low-interest rates for the foreseeable future in its two-day meeting starting Tuesday. The recent coronavirus vaccine roll-out is expected to improve the central bank's 2021 outlook.

Unofficially, the Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 1.14% to end at 30,201.68 points, while the S&P 500 gained 1.30% to 3,694.77.

The Nasdaq Composite climbed 1.25% to 12,595.06.

Supported by Apple, the S&P 500 technology sector index also rallied. The sector has outperformed the broader market during the pandemic and is up over 35% year to date, with investors viewing it as resilient to virus-related disruptions.

"The market likes to go to tech when it is afraid the economy may stall because of a rise in infections and shutdowns," said Christopher Grisanti, chief equity strategist at MAI Capital Management.

Increased liquidity and ultra-low lending rates have sent investors flocking to stocks for during the COVID-19 pandemic, while recent optimism over a vaccine pushed the S&P 500 to a series of record highs last week.

"We have prices up and earnings down and we still have a risk to the economy out there, so that's where the potential challenge is," warned Mike O'Rourke, chief market strategist at JonesTrading in Stamford, Connecticut. "Investors have to be more tactical, look at more of that value space that probably offers more opportunity as the recovery unfolds."

Eli Lilly and Co jumped after the company said it would buy Prevail Therapeutics Inc in a deal potentially valued at $1 billion to expand its presence in the lucrative field of gene therapy. Prevail's shares surged close to 80%.

Moderna Inc's shares tumbled, even after US Food and Drug Administration staff members did not raise any new concerns over data on the drugmaker's COVID-19 vaccine. A report said the vaccine will gain emergency use approval on Friday.

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