Dow jumps over 800 points, its best daily gain in 5 months, as Nasdaq ends lower on coronavirus vaccine report

U.S. stock benchmarks closed mostly higher Monday, leaving behind some of the technology giants and work-from-home winners, after German-based BioNTech SE and Pfizer Inc. announced that their COVID-19 vaccine candidate achieved “success” in the first interim analysis of a Phase 3 study.

Assets considered risky already received a boost before the open as former Vice President Joe Biden was projected over the weekend to defeat President Donald Trump following a heated election.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average
DJIA,
+2.94%

rose 834.57 points, or 3%, to finish at 29,157.97, booking its best one-day percent gain since June 5. The S&P 500
SPX,
+1.17%

added 41.06 points, or 1.2%, closing at 3,550.50, its second highest finish since Sept. 2. The Nasdaq Composite
COMP,
-1.52%

flipped negative in afternoon trade, ending with a 181.45-point loss, or 1.5%, at 11,713.78, or off 2.8% from its Sept. 2 closing record.

Meanwhile, the small-capitalization focused Russell 2000 index
RUT,
+3.70%

rose 3.7% to end at 1,705.04, after briefly touching its first intraday record since 2018 at 1,745.69.

On Friday, the S&P 500
SPX,
+1.17%

posted a weekly gain of 7.3% and the Nasdaq Composite Index
COMP,
-1.52%

jumped 9%, respectively, for the week. The Dow
COMP,
-1.52%

rose 6.9% this week.

What drove the market?

So-called cyclical sectors, badly beaten up by COVID-19, surged on Monday on promising vaccine news, helping lift the Dow and S&P 500 benchmarks, while investors sold many of the winners from the technology-heavy Nasdaq Composite to use the cash to bargain hunt for assets that may benefit in an environment in which remedies and treatments for coronavirus are more readily available.

“It’s possible that in the coming year there’s a real end date in sight,” said Matt Stucky, portfolio manager equities at Northwestern Mutual Wealth Management Co., of the pandemic, while pointing to gains in travel and leisure stocks, but selling in stay-at-home technology companies.

Markets rallied after Pfizer
PFE,
+7.69%

and BioNTech
BNTX,
+13.91%

said their BNT162b2 vaccine candidate was found to be more than 90% effective in preventing COVID-19 in trial participants that had no previous evidence of SARS-CoV-2 infection.

The companies said they are planning to submit for Emergency Use Authorization to the Food and Drug Administration soon after the safety milestones can be met, which currently is expected in the third week of November.

The report helped to deliver a fillip to a market that already had been upbeat on clarity on the U.S. election front.

“This is one more step towards light at the end of the tunnel. That bodes well for consumer confidence and consumer spending,” said Scott Clemons, chief investment strategist for Brown, Brothers and Harriman, in an interview.

“In the long run, the underlying dynamics around the coronavirus and the economy, and how that translates into corporate earnings are far more important than politics,” said Clemons.

Even so, President-elect Joe Biden on Monday implored Americans to continue wearing face masks and warned that the nation is “still facing a very dark winter,” in its race to slow COVID-19 and its death toll.

The U.S. case count topped 10 million on Monday, as Biden unveiled his COVID-19 task force of leading health experts, making clear that managing the pandemic will be a priority for his administration after Trump’s playing down of the crisis and insistence that it would “disappear.”

Read: Why investors should ‘let dust settle’ after Dow soars 1,200 points on Pfizer vaccine news

On Saturday, Biden was viewed as surpassing the 270 Electoral College votes needed to win the presidency, four days after Election Day, reducing the prospect of a drawn-out vote count in a testy race for the White House that had the potential to roil markets, at least in the near term. President Donald Trump has yet to concede, however, and his campaign continued to press legal challenges in several states.

Big gains last week, the strongest since April, came on rising expectations that Biden would be declared the winner and a divided Congress would result in a scenario that many investors view as less likely to result in changes to policy that might be seen as disruptive, including higher taxes and tightened regulation.

Read: Here’s what a Biden presidency spells for stocks, bonds and commodities

“Overall, we retain a pro-risk stance,” wrote Mark Haefele, chief investment officer of global wealth management at UBS, in a Monday note. “We think the best course of action is to operate under the assumption that the US election is over and expect market focus to shift to medium-term drivers of economic growth,” he said, pointing to the pandemic, vaccine developments and monetary and fiscal stimulus.

To be sure, Trump has threatened to fight the election results, but few experts believe there are viable paths to reversing the outcome and market participants appeared willing to look past that concern.

Even with control over the Senate still up in the air, potentially until Jan. 5, it looks like the U.S. will “experience another two years of divided government,” said Lauren Goodwin, New York Life Investments’ economist and multiasset portfolio strategist.

“The divided government scenario increases uncertainty over the size and timing of COVID-19 support, but it also reduces uncertainty around tax policy, which is going nowhere,” she wrote in a Monday note. 

Which companies were in focus?
  • Live Nation Entertainment, Inc.
    LYV,
    +14.84%

    shares closed up 14.9%, after hitting an intraday high of $72.72, or its best intraday level since Feb. 21, according to Dow Jones Market Data.

  • Pfizer and BioNTech shares soared. Pfizer advanced 7.7%, while BioNTech jumped 13.9%.

  • AMC Entertainment Holdings Inc.’s beaten-down shares
    AMC,
    +51.40%

    gained 51.4%.

  • Airline shares all rose sharply. Southwest Airlines
    LUV,
    +9.69%

    rose 9.7%, American Airlines
    AAL,
    +15.18%

    advanced 15.2% and Delta Air Lines
    DAL,
    +17.02%

    booked a 17% gain. Shares of Boeing Co.
    BA,
    +13.70%

    rose 13.7%.

  • Cruise line stocks also enjoyed significant gains. Royal Caribbean
    RCL,
    +28.78%

    shares closed up 28.8% and Carnival shares
    CCL,
    +39.29%

    gained 39.3%.

  • North Face parent VF Corp.
    VFC,
    +11.14%

    said Monday that it had acquired streetwear brand Supreme. VF Corp.’s shares gained 11.1%.

  • Stocks that benefited from work-from-home arrangements took a dive. Shares of Peloton Interactive Inc.
    PTON,
    -20.28%

    tumbled 20.3% and Zoom Video Communications Inc. fell 17.4%.

Which assets were on the move?

The yield on the 10-year Treasury note
TMUBMUSD10Y,
0.932%

 gained about 13.6 basis points to 0.957%, nearing the key 1% level. Bond prices fall as yields rise.

The pan-European Stoxx 600 Europe Index
SXXP,
+3.98%

closed up 4%, while London’s FTSE 100
UKX,
+4.67%

ended 4.7%, the biggest one-day surge for both since March 24, according to Dow Jones Market Data.

Oil futures surged, with the U.S. benchmark
CL.1,
+7.53%

closing up 8.5% at $40.29 a barrel, the biggest daily gain in 6 months. Gold futures
GCZ20,
-4.33%

tumbled almost 5% to settle at $1,854.40 an ounce, its biggest one-day dollar and percentage drop in more than 7 years.

The ICE U.S. Dollar Index
DXY,
+0.67%
,
 a measure of the currency against a basket of six major rivals, surged 0.6% to around 92.78.

Mark DeCambre contributed to this article

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