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S&P 500 Flirts With Record Levels

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08/11/2020 | 10:20am EDT

By Joe Wallace

U.S. stocks rose Tuesday, extending a recent run of gains that has pushed the S&P 500 near its first record close since February.

The broad stock market index climbed 0.5% after advancing for the seventh day running on Monday, its longest winning streak in more than a year. The index settled Monday roughly 0.8% short of its record close set on Feb. 19.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average added about 360 points, or 1.3%, while the technology-heavy Nasdaq Composite Index fell 0.3%.

A broad swath of stocks have climbed steadily in recent sessions amid a decline in confirmed U.S. coronavirus cases and some better-expected economic data. Trading volumes have also eased this month as the summer vacation season gets underway, while a key measure of turbulence in American stocks, the Cboe Volatility Index, has dropped to its lowest level since late February.

"I can't see any reason for the market to stop trending upwards at the moment -- of course with reduced potential as we go along," said Johan Hagbarth, investment strategist at Swedish financial group SEB. A big question is whether the jump in cheap, or value, stocks is the start of a rally driven by stronger economic growth or a bounce after months of underperformance, he said.

Investor sentiment was boosted by signs that President Trump and Democrats are open to restarting negotiations on a broad economic relief package. Administration officials and Democratic leaders urged each other to return to the negotiating table after Mr. Trump issued executive actions on jobless aid and other relief over the weekend.

"The U.S. fiscal stimulus is absolutely critical to keeping market momentum positive," said Nicholas Brooks, head of economic and investment research at Intermediate Capital Group. "Markets are assuming that ultimately Congress will come through with a package, and that there's a lot of brinkmanship going on."

"If we don't get a deal, I think markets will correct quite quickly," Mr. Brooks said.

Mr. Trump also said Monday evening that he was "very seriously" considering a cut to capital-gains tax and paring taxes for middle-income families.

"It's not clear whether he'll get what he wants," said Mr. Brooks. "But just the mention of that has I think also increased equity market sentiment overnight."

New coronavirus cases continued to decline. The U.S. reported fewer than 50,000 new cases for the second day in a row Monday, pushing the total number close to 5.1 million, according to Johns Hopkins University.

However, investors are concerned by a pickup in infections in parts of Europe that had appeared to bring the virus under control.

"It's hard for markets to digest the conflicting newsflow" on the virus in different regions, said Hugh Gimber, global market strategist at J.P. Morgan Asset Management. One positive for the world economy is that local lockdown measures "have had a less striking impact on mobility and spending data than the much more stringent lockdowns earlier in the year, " he said.

Earnings season for the largest U.S. companies is in its final innings. Shares in International Flavors & Fragrances fell 3% after the company reported a 40% drop in operating profits in the second quarter from a year before. Of the 91% of companies on the S&P 500 that had reported by Monday, 82% had beaten analysts' profit forecasts, according to FactSet.

Shares in cruise operators, airlines and major banks rose in early trading.

In a sign that investors are embracing riskier assets, yields on 10-year U.S. Treasury notes rose to 0.638%, from 0.573% Monday. Yields rise as bond prices fall. The WSJ Dollar Index, which tracks the dollar against a basket of currencies, slipped 0.2%.

The price of gold, seen as a haven asset by many investors, fell 3.2% to $1,963.20 a troy ounce. Brent crude futures, the benchmark in international oil markets, rose 1.4% to $45.61 a barrel.

Overseas, the Stoxx Europe 600 jumped 1.9%, lifted by shares in travel-and-leisure companies and other sectors that are sensitive to the direction of the economy.

Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index snapped three days of losses to rise 2.1% by the close of trading. The increase was driven partly by a rally in shares of Macau casino stocks, which jumped after the semiautonomous territory's government eased quarantine requirements for visitors from mainland China. Sands China shares jumped 9.8%, while Galaxy Entertainment Group rose 5.5%.

Elsewhere, Japan's Nikkei 225 gained 1.9% while the Shanghai Composite Index lost 1.2%.

--Frances Yoon, Xie Yu and Sam Goldfarb contributed to this article.

Write to Joe Wallace at Joe.Wallace@wsj.com

 

Stocks mentioned in the article
ChangeLast1st jan.
DJ INDUSTRIAL -1.84% 27147.7 Delayed Quote.-4.87%
EURO / US DOLLAR (EUR/USD) 0.00% 1.17577 Delayed Quote.5.65%
GALAXY ENTERTAINMENT GROUP LIMITED -4.76% 55 End-of-day quote.-4.18%
HANG SENG -0.81% 23747.17 Real-time Quote.-15.07%
INTERMEDIATE CAPITAL GROUP PLC -0.43% 1158 Delayed Quote.-27.70%
INTERNATIONAL FLAVORS & FRAGRANCES INC. -1.72% 120.43 Delayed Quote.-6.66%
LONDON BRENT OIL 0.53% 41.86 Delayed Quote.-35.03%
NASDAQ 100 0.40% 10980.219627 Delayed Quote.25.24%
NASDAQ COMP. -0.13% 10778.79817 Delayed Quote.20.13%
NIKKEI 225 0.18% 23360.3 Real-time Quote.-1.25%
S&P 500 -1.16% 3281.06 Delayed Quote.2.75%
S&P/CITIC 300 INDEX 0.01% 4012.88 Delayed Quote.14.29%
S&P/CITIC 50 INDEX 0.03% 3966.67 Delayed Quote.6.99%
SANDS CHINA LTD. -4.83% 31.55 End-of-day quote.-24.25%
STOXX EUROPE 600 0.66% 358.92 Delayed Quote.-14.19%
STOXX EUROPE 600 NR 0.66% 788.79 Delayed Quote.-12.62%
WTI -0.06% 39.87 Delayed Quote.-34.94%
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