A slow march back to normalcy buoyed spirits on Wall Street on Tuesday as the floor of the New York Stock Exchange partially reopened since being closed more than two months ago, and investors focused on green shoots of economic activity and news on the race for a COVID-19 vaccine.
After vaulting 600 points at the opening bell, the Dow Jones Industrial Average ended the day up 529.95 points or 2.17 percent. The index closed at 24,995.11. The S&P 500 – a proxy for the performance of US retirement and college savings accounts – jumped 0.17 but failed to pass the 3,000-mark, a key psychological level.
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Both indexes hit levels not seen since early March, when coronavirus lockdowns started sweeping the United States, derailing entire sectors of the economy, decimating consumer spending and badly damaging investor confidence.
US President Donald Trump, who has made his stewardship of the US economy a cornerstone of his re-election campaign, took to Twitter on Tuesday to highlight the benchmark indexes move upward.
“Stock Market up BIG, DOW crosses 25,000. S&P 500 over 3000. States should open up ASAP. The Transition to Greatness has started, ahead of schedule. There will be ups and downs, but next year will be one of the best ever!” Trump tweeted.
Economic activity is slowly stirring back to life with all 50 states partially easing lockdown restrictions. And evidence is building of a slight bounce in May.
“With some exceptions, lockdowns have not yet been eased significantly. But timely alternative data point to changes in people’s behaviour that could spur activity,” Ben May, director of global macro research at Oxford Economics, wrote in a note to clients on Tuesday. “The Dallas Fed’s social distancing indicator suggests a peak in late April in the US. Apple and Google mobility data paint a similar picture for the US and other economies.”
On Wall Street, dozens of floor brokers returned to the NYSE on Tuesday after the floor partially reopened since being closed on March 23.
Though face masks served as a physical reminder of the changes wrought by the coronavirus pandemic and the health risks that hang over the slow return to business as usual, the focus was firmly on signs of a nascent bounceback in economic activity and the race for a vaccine.
Shares of Novavax Inc closed at 4.47 percent higher after the US biotech group said it had started phase one clinical trials of its COVID-19 vaccine candidate.
Big pharma giant Merck also announced it is jumping into the coronavirus space with two deals involving two separate vaccine candidates for COVID-19 and a deal linked to a possible treatment for the disease.
Shares of Merck closed 1.17 percent higher.