Dow, S&P 500 hit records as oil pops and stimulus checks go out

U.S. equity markets rose Wednesday after Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said direct payments to Americans would begin immediately and as U.K. regulators approved a second COVID-19 vaccine for emergency use.

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Ticker Security Last Change Change %
I:DJI DOW JONES AVERAGES 30400.69 +65.02 +0.21%
SP500 S&P 500 3732.02 +4.98 +0.13%
I:COMP NASDAQ COMPOSITE INDEX 12880.401646 +30.18 +0.23%

The Dow Jones Industrial Average was higher by more than 115 points, or 0.38%, while the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq Composite advanced 0.24% and 0.35%, respectively. The gains have all three of the major averages contending with record highs.

Ticker Security Last Change Change %
XLE ENERGY SELECT SECTOR SPDR ETF 38.18 +0.61 +1.62%
USO UNITED STATES OIL FUND L.P. 32.97 +0.18 +0.56%

A bigger than expected drop in oil inventories, over 6 million barrels, giving crude prices, a boost along with energy stocks, which were the top performers within the S&P 500’s large sectors.

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On the COVID-19 relief front, Mnuchin said the $600 direct payments to most Americans as part of the $900 billion COVID-19 aid package would be delivered via direct deposit beginning on Tuesday and that checks would be arriving in the mail as early as this week.

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Looking at stocks, the AstraZeneca-University of Oxford COVID-19 vaccine received emergency use authorization from the U.K.’s health regulator, making it the second vaccination to garner approval from the agency. The vaccine, which has faced questions over discrepancies in clinical trial results, will begin being distributed on Monday.

Ticker Security Last Change Change %
AZN ASTRAZENECA PLC 50.12 +0.21 +0.43%
REGN REGENERON PHARMACEUTICALS INC. 478.45 -5.77 -1.19%

Elsewhere, Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc. said a trial found its therapy drug effective and that the study would continue.

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Meanwhile, Intel Corp. shares were in focus for a second day after activist investor Dan Loeb’s hedge fund Third Point called on the chipmaker to split its chip manufacturing operations from its chip design and development business.

Ticker Security Last Change Change %
INTC INTEL CORPORATION 48.77 -0.61 -1.25%
AMD ADVANCED MICRO DEVICES INC. 92.61 +1.99 +2.20%

Fox Corp., the parent company of FOX Business and Fox News, averaged 1.9 million viewers per day and 3.6 million viewers in prime time, both records, according to Nielsen data released Tuesday. It was the fifth straight year that Fox beat out all other news and basic cable channels.

Ticker Security Last Change Change %
FOXA FOX CORP. 29.18 +0.17 +0.57%

Looking at analyst calls, heavy-equipment maker Caterpillar Inc. was named a “top 2021 idea” at Baird, which raised its price target to $220 from $206. Clothing and accessories designer Tapestry Inc. received a price target increase to $35 from $27 at Guggenheim.

Ticker Security Last Change Change %
CAT CATERPILLAR INC. 179.91 +3.15 +1.78%
TPR TAPESTRY INC. 31.18 +1.05 +3.50%

In commodities, West Texas Intermediate crude oil rose 16 cents to $48.16 per barrel and gold was up $11.50 cents at $1,894.50 per ounce.

In economic news, manufacturing in the Midwest showed continued improvement rising to 59.5 in December, according to the Chicago PMI. A reading over 50 signals expansion.

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European markets were little changed with the Euro STOXX 50 down 0.03%.

In Asia, Hong Kong’s Hang Seng rallied 2.18% and China’s Shanghai Composite index climbed 1.05%. Japan’s Nikkei lagged, falling 0.45%.