S&P 500, Nasdaq hit record highs on recovery optimism

REUTERS/Andrew Kelly
  • Energy, travel shares rise on improving demand hopes
  • Best Buy gains after raising full-year sales forecast
  • Indexes up: Dow 0.11%, S&P 0.16%, Nasdaq 0.40%

Aug 24 (Reuters) - The S&P 500 and Nasdaq hit record highs on Tuesday, with oil and travel-related stocks extending gains after the first full U.S. approval of a COVID-19 vaccine raised hopes of a quicker economic recovery.

Seven of the 11 major S&P sectors advanced. Energy (.SPNY), industrial (.SPLRCI) and consumer discretionary (.SPLRCD) stocks were the top gainers, while defensive consumer staples (.SPLRCS), real estate (.SPLRCR) and utilities (.SPLRCU) declined after rising sharply in the past few sessions. read more

Cruise operators including Carnival Corp (CCL.N) rose more than 2.5%, while casino companies MGM Resorts (MGM.N) and Wynn Resorts (WYNN.O) added between 2.5% and 6% on hopes that the approval would increase U.S. vaccination rates and spark a stronger rebound in tourism.

The S&P 1500 airlines index (.SPCOMAIR) gained 3.2%.

Mega-cap growth names Facebook Inc (FB.O), Google-owner Alphabet Inc (GOOGL.O) and Amazon.com (AMZN.O), which led Wall Street's rally from the pandemic lows, rose between 0.7% and 1.2%, providing the biggest support to the indexes.

"Investors continue to favor what they see as a strong earnings and revenue side of technology despite the continuing COVID-19 crisis," said Rick Meckler, partner at Cherry Lane Investments in New Vernon, New Jersey.

"In general, investors are more afraid to be out of this market than they are afraid of a market drop."

A surge in COVID-19 infections of the highly contagious Delta variant has whipsawed Wall Street this month on concerns about a slowing economic recovery due to the health crisis.

Still, a strong earnings season put the S&P 500 on course for its seventh straight monthly gain, with a 2% rise so far in August.

"The market can continue to grind higher as long as earnings momentum continues to build. It accurately reflects the balance of risks that investors see right now," said Lauren Goodwin, economist and portfolio strategist at New York Life Investments.

"Despite some of the building concerns around Delta variant, the base case for many investors is that it will slow, not derail the economy."

The Fed's annual Jackson Hole symposium later this week will be closely watched for Chair Jerome Powell's speech, which could offer clues on the central bank's policy-tightening timeline.

At 12:06 p.m. ET, the Dow Jones Industrial Average (.DJI) was up 38.01 points, or 0.11%, at 35,373.72, the S&P 500 (.SPX) was up 7.23 points, or 0.16%, at 4,486.76, and the Nasdaq Composite (.IXIC) was up 60.21 points, or 0.40%, at 15,002.86.

A rally in U.S.-listed Chinese technology stocks also boosted the Nasdaq, with Pinduoduo Inc (PDD.O) surging 17.8% after the e-commerce platform reported its first ever quarterly profit. read more

The KraneShares CSI China Internet ETF , which tracks Chinese tech stocks, jumped 10%.

Best Buy Co Inc (BBY.N) gained 8.3% after it raised its full-year comparable sales forecast, as the electronics retailer expects demand to be resilient. read more

Palo Alto Networks Inc (PANW.N) surged 19.4% as brokerages raised their price targets on the stock after the cybersecurity firm forecast full year 2022 earnings above Wall Street's estimates.

Advancing issues outnumbered decliners by a 2.15-to-1 ratio on the NYSE and by a 1.58-to-1 ratio on the Nasdaq.

The S&P index recorded 26 new 52-week highs and 1 new low, while the Nasdaq recorded 75 new highs and 22 new lows.

Reporting by Devik Jain in Bengaluru; Editing by Sriraj Kalluvila and Anil D'Silva

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.