S&P 500, Nasdaq hit record highs as vaccine cheer overshadows grim data

(Reuters) – The S&P 500 and the Nasdaq touched all-time highs on Thursday as investors looked past bleak economic data, while remaining focused on a COVID-19 vaccine, with the blue-chip Dow getting a boost from Boeing shares.

FILE PHOTO: The front facade of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) is seen in New York, U.S., November 24, 2020. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid/File Photo

Boeing Co jumped about 7% after budget airline Ryanair ordered 75 additional 737 MAX jets with a list price of $9 billion, throwing a commercial lifeline to the embattled U.S. planemaker.

Tesla Inc’s 4% gain underpinned the Nasdaq after Goldman Sachs upgraded the stock to “buy” in the run-up to the electric-car maker’s addition to the S&P 500.

Earlier in the day, data showed the number of Americans filing first-time claims for jobless benefits fell last week, but remained extraordinarily high at 712,000, while a separate survey showed U.S. services industry activity slowed to a six-month low in November.

“Markets are discounting the bad economic news and focusing on a vaccine implementation plan … they are optimistic that a vaccine will bring a recovery in the second half of next year,” said Mike Cornacchioli, chief investment strategist at Clarfeld Citizens Private Wealth.

U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said there was some positive movement in congressional efforts to reach a compromise on a new coronavirus aid bill but gave no hints on when such a deal could be struck.

At 11:38 a.m. ET, the Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 180.08 points, or 0.60% to 30,063.87, the S&P 500 gained 9.03 points, or 0.25% to 3,678.04 and the Nasdaq Composite gained 58.22 points, or 0.47% to 12,407.61.

Seven of the 11 major S&P sectors were higher, with the energy sector leading gains.

The communication services index hit its highest since its creation in 2018.

Progress in developing a working COVID-19 vaccine before the end of the year has driven the Wall Street’s main indexes to record levels recently.

That also helped lift the S&P 1500 airlines index up 6%. Cruise operators Carnival Corp jumped 8% and Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd surged 9%.

Cloud-security provider Zscaler Inc surged 25% as it reported better-than-expected first-quarter revenue and adjusted profit.

Waddell & Reed Financial surged 49%, extending gains from the previous session, after Australia’s Macquarie Group announced a deal to buy the wealth manager for $1.7 billion.

Advancing issues outnumbered decliners by a 2.9-to-1 ratio on the NYSE and by a 2-to-1 ratio on the Nasdaq.

The S&P 500 posted 28 new 52-week highs and no new low while the Nasdaq recorded 241 new highs and 10 new lows.

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