Mon, November 9, 2020, 11:43 AM PST
Stocks sailed to record highs Monday as traders took in promising data on a leading COVID-19 vaccine candidate as well as President-elect Joe Biden’s victory in the U.S. presidential election, ending a days-long nail-biter over which candidate would prevail in winning the White House.
The S&P 500 jumped 3.6% to more than 3,600 shortly after market open, topping its previous record intraday high of 3,588.11 from September, and its record closing high from that same day. The Dow gained 1,488.43 points, or 5.3% to its own all-time high of more than 29,800. The Dow’s previous record intraday high was 29,568.57 from February.
The Nasdaq lagged, however, as hopes for a vaccine prompted traders to turn away from software stocks and other members of “stay-at-home” trade. Shares of Zoom Video Communications (ZM) tumbled more than 16% to pace toward its worst day in 2020, and Peloton (PTON) sold off more than 21%. However, stocks poised to benefit from a broader economic reopening including airlines, cruise lines and lodging firms each surged.
Shares of Pfizer (PFE) jumped more than 8% after the company announced that their clinical trial showed that their vaccine candidate was more than 90% effective in preventing COVID-19 in participants with no evidence of a previous coronavirus infection. Shares of BioNTech (BNTX), which is working on the vaccine alongside Pfizer, also gained more than 16%.
Clarity around the results of the presidential election also helped fuel a market rally. Biden, alongside Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, is set to usher in a push for bigger fiscal stimulus, a public option in health care, investment in sustainability, and a more measured approach to foreign policy and trade, among other key issues. And in his victory speech Saturday, Biden promised to work toward these goals with an eye toward uniting a deeply divided nation, calling for an end of “this grim era of demonization in America” and underscoring that “if we can decide not to cooperate, then we can decide to cooperate.”
So far, traders have cast bets that some of the suspected “market negative” potential of a Biden presidency, such as a move to raise corporate taxes, would be tempered by a Senate that remained under Republican control. Two Senate races remain outstanding in Georgia and will not be decided until January, though prediction markets have so far given Democrats relatively slim odds of winning both seats needed for the party to claim a majority in the chamber.
“A divided government would constrain the Biden administration’s ability to implement plans for large-scale fiscal stimulus and public investment, tax, healthcare and climate related legislation,” analysts from BlackRock Investment Institute said in a note Saturday. “We see an increased focus on sustainability under a divided government, but through regulatory actions, rather than via tax policy or spending on green infrastructure. It also would likely signify a return to more predictable trade and foreign policy – even as U.S.-China rivalry is set to stay elevated due to bipartisan support for a more competitive stance.”
The analysts added that “some fiscal stimulus looks possible” during the lame-duck session in Congress, though the size and scope of any forthcoming package is likely to be much smaller than what a united Democratic government might have advanced.
“We’re monitoring the fiscal response closely, as a premature retrenchment could set back an economic restart that has so far surprised to the upside,” they said.
Other economists also expressed optimism that a stimulus package might get passed ahead of Inauguration Day, even after the months’ worth of discussions between Trump administration officials and congressional lawmakers fizzled out without an agreement.
“We are becoming increasingly hopeful that pressure from business leaders and vulnerable Republican Senators in 2022 will mean that something can pass before the end of the year, and very preferably before the end of the month,” Ian Shepherdson, chief economist for Pantheon Macroeconomics, said in a note Sunday.
And for the high-flying tech stocks that have driven the market higher for much of this year, a Biden presidential victory with a likely Republican Senate poses the “goldilocks Election outcome,” according to WedBush analyst Dan Ives.
“Investors should expect a ratcheting down of US/China tensions and the ‘decoupling path’ of the Cold Tech war, which is a bullish sign for Apple (AAPL) and semi [semiconductor] stocks looking ahead,” Ives said in a note Saturday. Concerns of a tougher antitrust environment for Big Tech companies have also likely eased, he added.
Biden is also set to strike a more serious tone on combatting the coronavirus pandemic, with the outbreak having already taken the lives of more than 230,000 Americans, sickened more than 9.8 million and dragged U.S. economic activity to a historic nadir. And while vote counts were under way last week, coronavirus cases hit a grim milestone in the United States: A record more than 120,000 new cases reported on Friday alone. Biden announced a new 13-person coronavirus task force on Monday, as one of his first major acts during his presidential transition.