Dow Up for 4th Time in Five Sessions, Ekes out Closing Record

Stocks rose slightly on Wednesday amid renewed vaccine optimism while traders looked for clues on additional fiscal stimulus. The 30-stock average eked out a record closing high.

The Dow Jones Industrials gained 73.89 points to 30,409.56. Disney rose more than 2% to lead the Dow higher.

The S&P 500 recovered five points to 3,732.94. Energy and materials were the best-performing sectors in the S&P 500, jumping more than 1% each. Wednesday marked the fourth positive session in five for both the Dow and S&P 500.

The NASDAQ regained 19.78 points to 12,870.

With just one trading day left in the year, the major averages were on track to end 2020 higher. The Dow is up 6.6% for the year, while the S&P 500 has gained 15.5%.

But the clear year-to-date winner remains the NASDAQ, which has gained 43.4%.

Wednesday’s move higher came after a British regulator approved a coronavirus vaccine developed by the University of Oxford and AstraZeneca for emergency use. The approval followed the discovery of a new Covid strain in the U.K., which has also been confirmed in the U.S.

The number of COVID cases continues to tick higher. The U.S. is now recording at least 180,905 new cases and at least 2,210 virus-related deaths each day, based on a seven-day average calculated by media outlets using Johns Hopkins University data.

Wall Street also continued to weigh the prospects of additional fiscal stimulus as lawmakers continued to disagree over direct payments to Americans.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell blocked Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer’s effort to fast-track the bill, passed by the House late Monday, that would increase checks to $2,000 from $600. McConnell then tied the payments hike to demands from President Donald Trump on tech and the election.

Stimulus payments started to go out Tuesday evening, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said.

Prices for the 10-Year Treasury were higher, lowering yields to 0.94%, from Tuesday’s 0.94%. Treasury prices and yields move in opposite directions.

Oil prices tallied 30 cents to $48.30 U.S. a barrel.

Gold prices gained $13.70 to $1,896.60.