* (Updates prices to close, adds commentary, changes byline)
Nov 29 (Reuters) - Wall Street stocks closed higher on
Monday, regaining some of the ground lost in Friday's sell-off,
as investors appeared hopeful that the Omicron coronavirus
variant would not lead to lockdowns after reassurance from U.S.
President Joe Biden.
Nasdaq led gains among the major averages with help from the
technology sector, while the S&P and the Dow advanced after
suffering their biggest one-day percentage declines in months in
Friday's holiday-shortened session as investors worried that the
latest COVID-19 variant would cause economic disruption.
Biden said on Monday that Omicron-related lockdowns were off
the table for now, though he noted the variant was a cause for
concern but not for panic. He urged Americans to get vaccinated
and wear masks indoors. He also said the United States was
working with pharmaceutical companies to make contingency plans
if new vaccines were needed.
Those comments and indications from drug companies that they
are taking the variant seriously were reassuring for investors,
who had been anxious about the potential for further COVID
"Friday was a major de-risking event. You had the market go
back to its worst fears of COVID spreading and the return of
lockdowns." said Edward Moya, senior market analyst at OANDA.
"Now you're starting to see there is some optimism when you
listen to the President, when you listen to the Pfizer CEO. The
Omicron panic is easing, and we're into a period of wait and
Vaccine makers such as Pfizer, its partner BioNTech
and their rivals Moderna and Johnson &
Johnson said Monday they are working on vaccines that
specifically target Omicron in case their existing shots are not
effective against the variant. nFWN2SK0VH]
"It's not like the start of the pandemic all over again,"
said Carol Schleif, deputy chief investment officer for the BMO
family office in Minneapolis who also noted that after Friday's
knee-jerk reaction, investors have been trained this year to buy
the dip. "People are willing to just take a deep breath and try
to reassess, be a little more patient."
According to preliminary data, the S&P 500
gained 58.74 points, or 1.28%, to end at 4,654.43 points,
while the Nasdaq Composite gained 288.61 points, or
1.86%, to 15,780.27. The Dow Jones Industrial Average
rose 226.75 points, or 0.65%, to 35,126.09.
Among the S&P's 11 major sectors, technology led
the percentage gains. Amazon.com and Tesla Inc
rose, helping to boost the consumer discretionary sector
with investors viewing Friday's losses as a cue for
bargain-hunting on high-value tech names.
While the Dow advanced, it underperformed its peers
with pressure from Merck & Co Inc, which extended losses
from Friday. Updated data from a study of its experimental
COVID-19 pill showed lower efficacy in reducing risk of
hospitalization and deaths than previously reported.
Twitter Inc lost ground after the social media firm
said CEO Jack Dorsey will step down and be succeeded by Chief
Technology Officer Parag Agrawal. Dorsey had been in the unusual
position of having the CEO job of two major technology
companies, the second being digital payments firm Square Inc
Advanced Micro Devices rose after a report that
electric-car maker Tesla has started using a new AMD chip in
Model Y vehicles in China.
Tesla's shares gained after a report that chief Elon Musk
urged employees to reduce the cost of vehicle deliveries.
Other big boosts from single stocks in the S&P came from
Microsoft and from Apple Inc, which gained
ground after HSBC raised its price target on the iPhone maker's
(Additional reporting by Ambar Warrick, Devik Jain in
Bengaluru, Sinéad Carew and Kevin Buckland in New York, Editing
by Dan Grebler)