Stocks Shrug Off Virus Worries, Log Weekly Gains

By Avantika Chilkoti and Alexander Osipovich

U.S. stocks climbed Friday, ending the week with gains, as investors brushed off worries about a fresh wave of coronavirus infections and its impact on the economic recovery.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average advanced 369.21 points, or 1.4%, to 26075.30. The blue-chip index got off to a wobbly start, briefly turning negative after the opening bell, before rebounding and rallying into the close.

The S&P 500 rose 32.99 points, or 1%, to 3185.04. The Nasdaq Composite climbed 69.69 points, or 0.7%, to 10617.44, a fresh record for the technology-heavy index.

All three indexes were positive for the second consecutive week, even as new coronavirus cases in the U.S. repeatedly hit fresh records.

Still, there are signs investors remain jittery. Asian stocks sold off, briefly sending investors rushing to seek shelter in government bonds.

The yield on the benchmark 10-year U.S. Treasury note fell as low as 0.571%, its lowest level in more than two months. It bounced back after the U.S. stock market opened and settled at 0.633%, up from 0.605% on Thursday. Bond yields move in the opposite direction from prices.

"At some stage you accept the reality that Covid hasn't gone away, that it's going to have an impact on all economies in terms of social distancing until we have a vaccine," said Brian O'Reilly, head of market strategy for Mediolanum International Funds.

Markets have been resilient in part because investors expect further support from the U.S. Federal Reserve if the pandemic begins to slow the economy again, said Scott Martin, chief investment officer of Kingsview Wealth Management.

"The market is still largely addicted to stimulus," Mr. Martin said. "Markets are able to take the coronavirus news in stride because of this backstop."

Financials were the S&P 500's best performers Friday, rising 3.5% in a sign that risk-seeking investors were snapping up economically sensitive stocks. Among the largest banks, Citigroup rallied the most, with its share price jumping $3.20, or 6.5%, to $52.65.

Energy stocks also outperformed, boosted by an uptick in oil prices. U.S. crude futures rose 2.3% to settle at $ 40.55 a barrel.

Technology and health-care stocks in the S&P 500, which have performed strongly this year, were the only sectors to close in negative territory.

Shares of Carnival rallied $1.58, or 11%, to $16.16 after the cruise operator said it would reduce its fleet by nine ships to conserve cash. United Airlines Holdings, another stock that has been beaten down by the pandemic, jumped $ 2.50 a share, or 8.3%, to $32.67.

BioNTech, a German biotech firm that has joined with Pfizer to develop a coronavirus vaccine, rallied after its chief executive told The Wall Street Journal that early data for its vaccine was promising and it could seek regulatory approval by the end of the year. American depositary receipts of BioNTech climbed $4.75, or 7.2%, to $70.36.

Overseas, European stocks posted gains, with the Stoxx Europe 600 index rising 0.9%. Asian markets were mostly lower as China's recent market rally lost steam.

In China a streak of stock market gains ended Friday, with the Shanghai Composite Index closing 2% lower. It had risen 16.5% over eight straight sessions of gains, the biggest eight-day percentage gain since March 2008, according to Dow Jones Market Data.

Perhaps seeking to avoid a repeat of the stock market bubble and bust of 2015, Chinese authorities have signaled concerns about overshooting, with a state-run financial newspaper stressing the importance of long-term investment.

Friday's fall may have been propelled by actions by state-owned investors. Filings showed that big players such as the National Council for Social Security Fund had unloaded stocks, according to Alvin Ngan, strategist at Zhongtai International Holdings, a Hong Kong-based brokerage.

"The cooling tone from the authorities could take some of the sheen off the frenetic market, " he said.

Xie Yu contributed to this article.

Write to Avantika Chilkoti at Avantika.Chilkoti@wsj.com and Alexander Osipovich at alexander.osipovich@dowjones.com


  (END) Dow Jones Newswires
  07-10-20 1646ET
  Copyright (c) 2020 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.

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