S&P 500 books record on strong jobs report, Pfizer COVID-19 pill cheer

By Lewis Krauskopf, Devik Jain and Bansari Mayur Kamdar

© Reuters/BRENDAN MCDERMID Traders work on the floor of the NYSE in New York

(Reuters) – Wall Street’s main indexes scored record closing highs on Friday and booked solid gains for the week following a strong U.S. jobs report and positive data for Pfizer’s experimental pill against COVID-19.

The S&P 500 and the Nasdaq notched record high closes for their seventh straight sessions, while the Dow Jones Industrial Average also closed at a record. All three indexes posted weekly gains for their fifth straight weeks.

The Labor Department report showed U.S. employment increased more than expected in October as the headwind from the surge in COVID-19 infections over the summer subsided.

A trial of Pfizer Inc’s experimental antiviral pill for COVID-19 was stopped early after the drug was shown to cut by 89% the chances of hospitalization or death for adults at risk of developing severe disease. Pfizer shares jumped about 11%.

The news kept the run going for equities after investors earlier in the week digested the Federal Reserve’s decision to start reducing its monthly bond purchases put in place to support the economy.

“Momentum that we have seen this week has continued, and the jobs report and the Pfizer announcement certainly are providing positive datapoints for investors to put more money into the market right now,” said Chuck Carlson, chief executive officer at Horizon Investment Services in Hammond, Indiana.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 203.72 points, or 0.56%, to 36,327.95, the S&P 500 gained 17.47 points, or 0.37%, to 4,697.53 and the Nasdaq Composite added 31.28 points, or 0.2%, to 15,971.59.

For the week, the S&P 500 rose 2%, the Dow added 1.42%, while the Nasdaq gained 3.05%.

Video: The Week That Was: September jobs number disappoints (CNBC)

The Week That Was: September jobs number disappoints
What to watch next

Travel stocks rose following Pfizer’s announcement, with the S&P 1500 airlines index climbing 7%, and cruise operators Carnival Corp, Royal Caribbean Cruises and Norwegian Cruise rising between about 8% to 9%.

“Still early to be definitive but this (pill) looks like a true game changer for many industries like leisure and transportation, you’re seeing it reflected in the prices,” said Andre Bakhos, managing director at New Vines Capital LLC in Bernardsville, New Jersey.

Among S&P 500 sectors, energy and industrials led the way, rising 1.4% and 1%, respectively.

Healthcare was the only sector that ended negative, falling 1%. The Pfizer news weighed on shares of competitors such as Merck, which fell nearly 10%, and COVID-19 vaccine makers such as Moderna, which slumped 16.6%.

Shares of so-called “stay-at-home” names fell, with Zoom Video Communications down 6.2% and Netflix Inc off 3.4%.

Better-than-expected third-quarter earnings have helped lift sentiment for equities. With about 440 companies having reported, S&P 500 earnings are expected to have climbed 41.5% in the third quarter from a year earlier, according to Refinitiv IBES.

Pinterest Inc shares climbed 5.9% after the company’s strong fourth-quarter revenue forecast.

Peloton Interactive Inc shares slumped 35.3% after the company slashed its full-year sales forecast by up to $1 billion.

Advancing issues outnumbered declining ones on the NYSE by a 2.16-to-1 ratio; on Nasdaq, a 1.22-to-1 ratio favored advancers.

The S&P 500 posted 83 new 52-week highs and two new lows; the Nasdaq Composite recorded 303 new highs and 80 new lows.

About 11.5 billion shares changed hands in U.S. exchanges, compared with the 10.5 billion daily average over the last 20 sessions.

(Reporting by Lewis Krauskopf in New York, Devik Jain and Bansari Mayur Kamdar in Bengaluru; Editing by Maju Samuel and Marguerita Choy)

Continue Reading