US stocks extend rally; S&P 500, Nasdaq at all-time highs

NEW YORK -- Health care and financial stocks led another milestone-setting rally on Wall Street Wednesday, extending the market’s gains for the week.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average climbed more than 480 points and the S&P 500 index and Nasdaq composite each hit an all-time high.

The latest gains came as another batch of solid corporate earnings reports and encouraging economic data overshadowed concerns about the potential economic fallout from the virus outbreak that originated in China.

The latest jobs survey by payroll processor ADP indicated hiring accelerated better than expected last month. A separate report showed economic activity increased in January.

“The earnings numbers that we've gotten for the most part have been pretty solid, and the ADP report was a blowout on the good side,” said Scott Ladner, chief investment officer for Horizon Investments.

The S&P 500 index rose 37.10 points, or 1.1%, to 3,334.69. The Dow climbed 483.22 points, or 1.7%, to 29,290.85. The average briefly climbed above 500 points.

The Nasdaq gained 40.71 points, or 0.4%, to 9,508.68. The index, which is heavily weighted with technology stocks, also notched a record high on Tuesday.

The Russell 2000 index of smaller company stocks picked up 25.15 points, or 1.5%, to 1,681.92.

Markets in Europe and Asia closed higher.

Industrial and technology stocks also helped lift the market. Crude oil prices jumped 2.3%, giving energy stocks a boost. Exxon Mobil gained 4.6%.

Real estate stocks were the only decliners as investors shifted away from safe-play holdings and took on more risk. The yield on the 10-year Treasury rose to 1.64% from 1.60% late Tuesday.

The recent virus outbreak has infected more than 24,500 people globally, but has been mostly confined to China. The world's second largest company remains on lockdown and companies continue to warn of an expected impact to revenue and profit, though the extent of the damage for many remains unclear.

Tesla plunged 17.2% on reports that the shutdowns in China will delay production at its Shanghai factory. The company warned investors last week that production delays in China were possible.

Anxiety about the outbreak fueled a mid-January slump for U.S. stocks, but investors appear to have set aside those jitters this month.

“We're not only focused on what's going on with this virus, we're focused on all the other things that are out there, and all the other things that are out there are systematically and consistently positive,” Ladner said.

Investors got more encouraging news about the U.S. economy on Wednesday. Payroll processor ADP said that private U.S. companies added 291,000 jobs in January, a big increase from December. The report came out ahead of the Labor Department’s release of its January jobs tally on Friday. Many analysts expect that report will show a job gain of 150,000 in January, compared to 145,000 jobs in the government’s report in December.

Meanwhile, the Institute for Supply Management said its index of business activity by service sector companies increased in January, an indicator of continued steady expansion of the economy.

Traders also continued to weigh a mixed batch of company earnings reports Wednesday.

Versace parent Capri Holdings jumped 8.3% and CoverGirl owner Coty vaulted 14.5% for some of the strongest gains as Wall Street rewarded their latest quarterly results, which easily beat analysts' forecasts.

Humana climbed 6.4% after the health insurer reported surprisingly good fourth-quarter profit and revenue.

Merck fell 2.9% after the drug maker reported weak fourth-quarter revenue and said it will spin off some of its operations, including the women’s health division.

Ford slumped 9.5% after the automaker reported weak fourth-quarter earnings to cap off a disappointing year. The company’s profit plunged in 2019 because of slowing sales, the cost of a botched SUV launch and some big pension expenses. It also gave investors a weak profit forecast for 2020.

So far, about 53% of S&P 500 companies have reported their results for the October-December quarter. Of those companies, nearly 70% have issued results that beat analysts' forecasts for profits, according to S&P Global Market Intelligence.

Investors also bid up shares in Macy’s after the department store giant said it will cut 2,000 corporate jobs and close 125 of its least productive stores. The store closures represent about one fifth of Macy's current total. The stock climbed 6%.

Benchmark crude oil rose $1.14 to settle at $50.75 a barrel. Brent crude oil, the international standard, gained $1.32 to close at $55.28 a barrel. Wholesale gasoline rose 5 cents to $1.49 per gallon. Heating oil climbed 7 cents to $1.65 per gallon. Natural gas fell 1 cent to $1.86 per 1,000 cubic feet.

Gold rose $7.40 to $1,557.80 per ounce, silver rose 4 cents to $17.57 per ounce and copper rose 3 cents to $2.58 per pound.

The dollar rose to 109.83 Japanese yen from 109.51 yen on Tuesday. The euro weakened to $1.0997 from $1.1042.