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US stocks join global rally amid COVID-19 treatment hopes

The possibility of a vaccine helps shares of industries that have been beaten down by pandemic life.
A man wearing a protective face mask passes the New York Stock Exchange on May 26, as employees arrive for the partial reopening of the trading floor. Stocks are climbing in early trading on Aug. 24 on Wall Street, adding to their record-breaking run from last week. The S&P 500 was up 0.7 percent after the first 25 minutes of trading, following up on solid gains for stock markets across much of Europe and Asia.
A man wearing a protective face mask passes the New York Stock Exchange on May 26, as employees arrive for the partial reopening of the trading floor. Stocks are climbing in early trading on Aug. 24 on Wall Street, adding to their record-breaking run from last week. The S&P 500 was up 0.7 percent after the first 25 minutes of trading, following up on solid gains for stock markets across much of Europe and Asia. [ MARK LENNIHAN | AP ]
Published Aug. 24, 2020|Updated Aug. 24, 2020

NEW YORK — Stocks are climbing on Wall Street Aug. 24, adding to their record-breaking run from last week.

The S&P 500 was up 0.7 percent in afternoon 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 239 points, or 0.9 percent, at 28,170, as of 12:52 p.m. Eastern time, and the Nasdaq composite was 0.5 percent higher.

Hope was rising as pharmaceutical companies continue to work toward a possible vaccine for COVID-19 and after the U.S. government on Aug. 23 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.

Stocks of several companies involved in plasma-derived pharmaceuticals were jumping following the announcement. ADMA Biologics rallied 14 percent, and Kamada climbed 14.5 percent.

Rising hope for a COVID-19 vaccine and treatment also helped shares of industries that have been beaten down badly 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 8.3 percent, and American Airlines Group added 8.8 percent.

One winner of the new normal, Zoom Video Communications, stumbled. Its shares fell 2.4 percent after it reported partial outages in its Zoom Meetings service, which has become the default way for classrooms and businesses around the world to communicate. By the early afternoon hours on the East Coast, it said it had resolved the issue.

An Associated Press computer screen grab shows the Kansas State Board of Education Zoom meeting, on July 22 in Topeka, Kan. Zoom meeting software experienced a partial outage on Aug. 24, as many students started online classes. The company said it started receiving reports of people being unable to start and join Zoom meetings around 9 a.m. Eastern time.
An Associated Press computer screen grab shows the Kansas State Board of Education Zoom meeting, on July 22 in Topeka, Kan. Zoom meeting software experienced a partial outage on Aug. 24, as many students started online classes. The company said it started receiving reports of people being unable to start and join Zoom meetings around 9 a.m. Eastern time. [ AP ]

The market's gains were relatively broad, and roughly three out of four stocks in the S&P 500 were higher. Financial companies, energy producers and other areas of the market closely tied to the economy's strength were also rising.

The moves come as investors hope the virus' spread continues to slow and the economy continues to improve, said Keith Buchanan, portfolio manager at Globalt Investments.

"We're just making sure that the trends we've seen as of late from the virus continue to materialize," he said. "We want to start to see marginal, steady improvement."

Whether the stock market's gains continue to broaden out is an important marker for analysts, because 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 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 a small cadre of companies can increase risk for the market.

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Last week, the S&P 500 would have been down if not for the performance of a single stock: Apple, whose 8.2 percent spurt also made it the first U.S. stock to be worth a total of $2 trillion. 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."

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 close to 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.

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, Wyo. 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. This year's event is titled "Navigating the Decade Ahead: Implications for Monetary Policy."

The yield on the 10-year Treasury held steady at 0.64 percent.

In European stock markets, the German DAX returned 2.4 percent. France’s CAC 40 rose 2.3 percent, and the FTSE 100 in London added 1.7 percent.

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

Benchmark U.S. crude oil was up 0.1 percent at $42.39 per barrel. Brent crude, the international standard, rose 1.2 percent to $44.87 per barrel.

By STAN CHOE and DAMIAN J. TROISE

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