Wall Street oscillates as vaccine hopes wrestle with shutdown threats

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Wall Street see-sawed on Wednesday, with economically-sensitive sectors outperforming as investors weighed heartening vaccine development progress against surging COVID-19 infections.

FILE PHOTO: A street sign for Wall Street is seen outside the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in Manhattan, New York City, U.S. December 28, 2016. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly/File Photo

All three major U.S. indexes oscillated between red and green through much of the session but were last moderately lower, while small caps, industrials and transportation stocks advanced.

S&P Industrials .SPLRCI and the Dow Transportation index .DJT, both of which stand to benefit from economies reopening after the global health crisis winds down, were on course for all-time closing highs.

“The market is showing a willingness to support the reopening plays, you see it in the Dow Transports and the Russell 2000,” said Chuck Carlson, chief executive officer at Horizon Investment Services in Hammond, Indiana. “It’s a closing of the performance gap between value and growth.”

“It’s not dooming growth stocks, it’s broadening out the strength of the market,” Carlson added. “I think that’s going to continue over the short term.”

Pfizer Inc PFE.N and its German partner BioNTech BNTX.O revealed a 95% success rate at the conclusion of their COVID-19 vaccine trial, just days after Moderna Inc MRNA.O announced a similar rate of success in preliminary data from its vaccine candidate.

Market participants have been greeting vaccine developments with guarded optimism as global new infections soar to record levels, raising the possibility of increased restrictions as the economy struggles to recover from recession. The United States remains the country worst affected by the pandemic.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average .DJI fell 33.74 points, or 0.11%, to 29,749.61, the S&P 500 .SPX lost 5.78 points, or 0.16%, to 3,603.75 and the Nasdaq Composite .IXIC dropped 7.75 points, or 0.07%, to 11,891.59.

Among the 11 major sectors in the S&P 500, industrials enjoyed the largest percentage gains while healthcare .SPXHC suffered the biggest loss.

Third-quarter reporting season has reached the final inning, with 468 of the companies in the S&P 500 having reported. Of those, 84.4% have surprised consensus to the upside, according to Refinitiv.

Boeing Co BA.N initially provided the biggest lift to the Dow after the Federal Aviation Commission green-lighted the planemaker’s grounded 737 MAX aircraft to resume flights, but its shares have since reversed course.

Target Corp TGT.N handily beat quarterly profit and sales estimates, boosted by a 155% jump in comparable digital sales. The retailer’s stock rose 4.7%.

Lowe’s Companies Inc LOW.N dropped 6.4% after the home improvement retailer forecast lower-than-expected holiday quarter earnings as it beefs up its online business and doles out employee bonuses to ease pandemic-related hardship.

Advancing issues outnumbered declining ones on the NYSE by a 1.51-to-1 ratio; on Nasdaq, a 1.32-to-1 ratio favored advancers.

The S&P 500 posted 29 new 52-week highs and no new lows; the Nasdaq Composite recorded 138 new highs and eight new lows.

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