S&P 500, Dow rise as fiscal stimulus hopes offset Sino-U.S. worries

(Reuters) – The S&P 500 and the Dow advanced on Wednesday as signs of another round of government stimulus for the virus-stricken U.S. economy countered worries over worsening ties between the United States and China.

Tesla Inc (TSLA.O), the world’s most valuable carmaker, rose 0.8% and Microsoft Corp (MSFT.O) gained 0.9% in the run up to their quarterly results due after markets close.

A largely upbeat start to the earnings season, hopes for an eventual COVID-19 vaccine and an expected coronavirus relief economic package have brought the benchmark S&P 500 within 4% below its record February closing high.

Further lifting the mood, a report said the White House and Senate Republicans are discussing a deal to temporarily extend coronavirus-related unemployment benefits, as they appear unlikely to reach a broader stimulus agreement before the aid lapses.

“The attention of equities right now is on what another stimulus bill will look like and the underlying health of the economy in terms of employment and housing,” said Willie Delwiche, investment strategist at Baird in Milwaukee.

U.S. home sales increased by the most on record in June, lifting the Philadelphia SE Housing index .HGX by 2.8%.

Earlier on Wednesday, futures had taken a hit after the United States told China to close its consulate in Houston, citing a need to protect American intellectual property and information, deepening a deterioration in bilateral relations. A source said Beijing was considering shutting down the U.S. consulate in Wuhan.

At 1:04 p.m. ET, the Dow Jones Industrial Average .DJI was up 65.27 points, or 0.24%, at 26,905.67 and the S&P 500 .SPX was up 8.23 points, or 0.25%, at 3,265.53. The Nasdaq Composite .IXIC was down 5.13 points, or 0.05%, at 10,675.24.

The real estate .SPLRCR and utilities .SPLRCU sectors rose more than 1%, the most among major S&P sectors, while financials .SPSY and energy .SPNY underperformed.

Pfizer Inc (PFE.N) advanced 4% as the drugmaker and German biotech firm BioNTech SE (22UAy.F) said they would get $1.95 billion from the U.S. government to produce and deliver 100 million doses of their COVID-19 vaccine candidate.

Hospital operator HCA Healthcare Inc (HCA.N) surged 10.7% after reporting better-than-expected quarterly revenue. Thermo Fisher Scientific Inc (TMO.N) jumped 2.4% after the scientific instruments maker beat second-quarter results.

Snap Inc (SNAP.N) declined 6.4% as it forecast fewer current-quarter users than estimates and said the initial lift in user growth at the start of coronavirus-led lockdowns dissipated faster than it expected.

About 77.7% of the 75 S&P 500 firms that have reported so far, have beaten a low bar for quarterly earnings estimates, per IBES data from Refinitiv. Analysts expect earnings to decline about 41.2% in the reported quarter.

Advancing issues outnumbered decliners by a 1.36-to-1 ratio on the NYSE. Declining issues outnumbered advancers for a 1.27-to-1 ratio on the Nasdaq.

The S&P index recorded 37 new 52-week highs and one new low, while the Nasdaq recorded 73 new highs and 10 new lows.

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