S&P 500 trades in record territory after Pfizer pill study, stronger-than-expected October jobs report

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By Christine Idzelis and William Watts

Pfizer shares soar after study shows strong results for COVID drug

U.S. stocks climbed higher Friday afternoon, with the S&P 500 index pushing further into record territory, after a stronger-than-expected October jobs report.

Pfizer Inc. shares surged as the vaccine maker released a study of its COVID-19 antiviral drug suggesting it is successful in combating the illness. The news was seen adding to a positive for the economic recovery and for equities.

How are stock indexes trading?

On Thursday, the Dow Jones Industrial Average snapped a five-day winning streak, while the S&P 500 and Nasdaq Composite each logged a sixth straight record close.

For the week, the Dow is on track to advance 1.4%, while the S&P 500 was heading for a 2% gain and the Nasdaq was up about 3%, FactSet data show, at last check.

What’s driving the market?

U.S. stocks were trading higher Friday afternoon on a good jobs report and investor optimism surrounding the study of Pfizer’s antiviral drug treating COVID-19.

“You see a huge rotation into the reopening trade,” said Zhiwei Ren, managing director and portfolio manager at Penn Mutual Asset Management, in a phone interview Friday. Shares of airlines, hotels and restaurants have jumped on the Pfizer news as it appears people may be able to “to take a pill when they get sick” from COVID to prevent severe illness.

Shares of online travel company Expedia Group Inc. (EXPE) soared Friday, up around 15% in afternoon trading, according to FactSet data, at last check. Concert promoter Live Nation Entertainment Inc. (LYV) was up about 14% while Royal Caribbean Group (RCL) was trading more than 9% higher.

The U.S. economy created 531,000 jobs in October, the Labor Department said Friday. Economists surveyed by The Wall Street Journal had forecast a rise of 450,000. The unemployment rate fell to 4.6% last month from 4.8%. Also, September job gains were raised to 312,000 from a previous estimate of 194,000, while August jobs were raised to 483,000 from 366,000.

“The Fed appears comfortable with the economy right now and today’s jobs report validated that optimism,” said David Donabedian, chief investment officer of CIBC Private Wealth U.S.

“Third quarter earnings, the [Fed] plans to taper quantitative easing without rushing to raise rates, and the falling unemployment rate in October have created tailwinds for the equity market. It is not surprising to see another strong week for stocks,” he said.

However wages were up nearly 5% year over year, which can be a harbinger of stickier inflation. “If we continue to see strength in wage numbers going forward, it may catalyze the Fed to get more aggressive on taper and could pull forward rate hike expectations next year,” said Cliff Hodge, chief investment officer for Cornerstone Wealth.

Investors also snapped up Treasurys in the wake of the data, sending yields, which move the opposite direction of prices, down sharply. The benchmark 10-year Treasury yield dropped 6.5 basis points to 1.458%, hitting its lowest level since late September.

Investors have been sifting through a heavy slate of corporate earnings reports as the busiest portion of what’s been an upbeat third-quarter earnings season comes to an end.

“Earnings have been a boost to sentiment, for sure,” said Aoifinn Devitt, chief investment officer of Moneta, in a phone interview Friday. “I think there will be a strong holiday season.”

The equity rally was aided by “growing optimism the U.S. is close to winning the war against COVID after Pfizer’s promising data with their oral antiviral treatment,” said Edward Moya, senior market analyst at Oanda, in a note.

PfizerPFE shares climbed more than 9% after the pharmaceutical company said its COVID antiviral reduced the risk of hospitalizations or death by 89% in a Phase 2/3 study.

What companies are in focus?

How are other assets trading?

—-Barbara Kollmeyer contributed to this report.

-Christine Idzelis


(END) Dow Jones Newswires

11-05-21 1529ET

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