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Market Snapshot: Dow jumps 375 points as investors monitor Washington stimulus talks

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Market Snapshot

Apple at 3-month high on report of iPhone production increase in new year

Sarah Silbiger/Getty Images

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Stocks were solidly higher Tuesday afternoon, as the hope that Congress would finally pass another package of aid for workers and businesses, along with optimism about the coronavirus vaccine rollout, offset news of new lockdowns as COVID-19 cases continue to rise.

Investors were also awaiting an update from the Federal Reserve on Wednesday on its bond-buying program to support financial markets and the economy.

What are major indexes doing?
  • The Dow Jones Industrial Average

    rose 298 points, or 1%, to 30,159

  • The S&P 500

    was up 40 points, or 1.1%, at 3,688.

  • The Nasdaq Composite

    advanced 130 points, or 1.1%, to 12,570.

  • The small-cap Russell 2000

    was up 43 points, or 2.3%, at 1,956.

Stocks saw a mostly lower finish Monday, with the Dow closing in negative territory after an early push to an intraday record.

What’s driving the market?

Stocks touched session highs Tuesday afternoon, while House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., invited congressional leaders to meet on Tuesday afternoon to hash out a coronavirus aid package and a government spending plan to avoid a shutdown by the weekend.

“It’s been a slow bleed up,” said David Wagner, portfolio manager at Aptus Capital Advisors, of stock indexes moving higher Tuesday in anticipation of a slimmed down stimulus deal.

“The market always tells you what it’s decided to focus on, and right now it’s solely stimulus,” he said. “It doesn’t matter the size, they just want it passed.”

A bipartisan group of House and Senate lawmakers on Monday proposed a two-part package that would separate the most contentious issues holding up approval from a $748 billion proposal that incorporates widely supported measures, including extended unemployment benefits and aid to business. Thornier issues, including liability protections for businesses and aid to state, local and tribal governments were put into a proposed $160 billion package.

“Although the current proposal is far more modest than the fiscal packages floated earlier in the year (at $700 billion it is only about one third as large) it nevertheless is viewed by the market as better than nothing at a time when many U.S. citizens are on the precipice of homelessness given the contraction of economic activity due to fresh wave of lockdowns,” said Boris Schlossberg, managing director at BK Asset Management, in a note.

If lawmakers leave Washington without a deal, “the policy error could be very costly for the U.S. economy in Q1,” he said.

Meanwhile, the rollout of the vaccine developed by Pfizer Inc.

and BioNTech SE

continued, after the first vaccinations were delivered on Monday.

Later this week, a Food and Drug Administration advisory committee will meet to discuss whether Moderna Inc.’s 

 COVID-19 vaccine candidate should be authorized for use. Data released by the FDA Tuesday showed the vaccine was “highly effective.” Moderna shares fell 5.8% but remain up by around 646% in the year to date.

The U.S. saw more than 1,600 fatalities from COVID-19 on Monday, bringing the death toll to more than 300,400 and the country saw 201,073 new cases on Monday, according to a New York Times tracker. The U.S. has averaged 209,600 cases a day over the past week, up 31% from the average two weeks earlier. There was a record 110,549 COVID-19 patients in U.S. hospitals on Monday, according to the COVID Tracking Project, topping the previous record of 109,298 set a day earlier.

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Investors also are awaiting an update from the Federal Reserve after it began a two-day policy meeting Tuesday, its final gathering of 2020.

Read: 4 things to watch when the Fed meets on Wednesday

In U.S. economic news, business activity in New York state expanded only slightly in December, according to the latest survey from the New York Fed released Tuesday. The bank’s Empire State business conditions index slipped to 4.9 in December from 6.3 in the prior month. Economists were expecting a gain to 7.2, according to Econoday. The Empire State index has fallen steadily after hitting 17 in September.

U.S. November industrial production showed a slight 0.4% rise, after a revised 0.9% increase in October.

“Manufacturing’s strong performance this year isn’t likely to be repeated in 2021. An end to the health crisis is slowly coming into view, but less buoyant demand, some lingering Covid-related supply chain disruptions, and less stimulative fiscal policy will constrain manufacturing activity next year,” said Oren Klachkin, lead U.S. economist at Oxford Economics after the Empire State data.

“Additionally, double dip recession risks will continue to run high if Congress doesn’t provide more fiscal relief and the health crisis isn’t over,” he said.

Which companies are in focus?
What are other markets doing?
  • The yield on the 10-year Treasury note

    rose 2 basis points to 0.91%.

  • The ICE U.S. Dollar Index
    a measure of the currency against a basket of six major rivals, was off 0.3%.

  • The pan-European Stoxx 600 Europe index

    closed 0.3% higher, while London’s FTSE 100 benchmark

    fell 0.3%.

  • Oil futures settled at a more than nine-month high, with the U.S. benchmark

    up 1.3% to end at $47.62 a barrel.

  • Gold futures

    logged their highest finish in a week, with the February contract up 1.3%, settling at $1,855.30 an ounce.

Read full story

Why toys, cannabis and fast food could be winning stock themes for 2021, say these analysts

Our call of the day from strategists at MKM Partners offers stock picks to think about headed into 2021. And they offer potential upside from 10% to 43%.

William Watts is MarketWatch’s senior markets writer. Based in New York, Watts writes about stocks, bonds, currencies and commodities, including oil. He also writes about global macro issues and trading strategies. Before moving to New York, he reported for MarketWatch from Frankfurt, London and Washington, D.C.

Joy Wiltermuth is a MarketWatch markets reporter and editor based in New York.

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