NEW YORK >> U.S. stocks edged higher in afternoon trading today, shaking off a weak start on worries over rising virus cases.
The U.K. became the first Western country to start a mass vaccination program after British regulators last week authorized the use of a COVID-19 shot developed by U.S. drugmaker Pfizer and Germany’s BioNTech.
U.S. health regulators have given a positive initial review of that vaccine and a decision to allow its use is expected within days, however wide distribution is likely months away. Meanwhile, governments worldwide have been tightening restrictions on businesses in an effort to stem the latest surge in cases.
The S&P 500 rose 0.3% and hovered near the record high it set on Friday. The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 115 points, or 0.4%, to 30,185 as of 1:18 p.m. Eastern time. The Nasdaq rose 0.3%.
Investors are also keeping a close eye on Washington. Congress is still stuck in a partisan stalemate over the size and scope of any additional aid to help cushion the financial impact to people and businesses. The economy has been showing signs of a stalled recovery as the virus surge broadens nationally, including slower job growth in the U.S. last month.
Health care stocks made solid gains. Pfizer rose 2.5% and Johnson & Johnson rose 1.9%. Energy companies also rose. Exxon added 3.4%.
Shop-from-home clothing seller Stitch Fix soared 40.7% after reporting a surprise profit in its latest quarter. Etsy jumped 4.8%.
A mix of companies that rely on direct consumer spending and those that would greatly benefit from a fuller economic recovery continued to see a bit of churn. The moves reflect the constant push-and-pull of hope for an eventual economic recovery pitted against the continued economic damage inflicted by the pandemic.
Cruise line operators gained ground, including a 3.8% rise from Norwegian Cruise Line. The sector very much needs the virus to recede in order to get back to normal operations. Other companies that need a more normal economy in order to recover are still slipping. Darden Restaurants, which operates Olive Garden, fell 1%.
Overall, many of the companies that have been beaten down have been doing better as investors see an eventual end to the pandemic. There’s been a push for broader investments in many of those industries and not much pullback, said Andrew Slimmon, senior portfolio manager at Morgan Stanley Investment Management.
“It’s a very positive sign when you see very broad participation,” he said. “It tells me positioning is still in the process of moving more into cyclical stocks.”
The yield on the 10-year Treasury remained steady at 0.91% from late Monday.
European markets were mixed. France’s CAC 40 was down less 0.2%, Germany’s DAX rose 0.1% and the FTSE 100 in London rose 0.1%. Asian markets declined.