Inside Tuesday's Historic Dow Move

11/24/2020 | 04:51pm

By Anna Hirtenstein and Paul Vigna

U.S. stocks surged Tuesday, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average crossing 30000 for the first time, after President Trump said his aides would cooperate with President-elect Joe Biden's transition to the White House.

That news eased investors' concerns about a drawn-out period of uncertainty and added more steam to a recent rally that has been spurred by promising results from potential coronavirus vaccines.

The 30-stock index of blue-chip companies opened modestly higher, and the gains accelerated as the morning progressed. The index flirted with the milestone several times before crossing the mark shortly before 11:30 ET.

The Dow ended the session up 454.97 points, or 1.5%, to 30046.24, its ninth record close of 2020. The index is up 62% from its March lows and 5.3% for the year.

"Investors are showing faith in the idea of a recovery by midyear 2021," said Shawn Snyder, head of investment strategy at Citi Personal Wealth Management. Indexes like the Dow and Russell 2000, which include more cyclical companies closely tied to the strength of the economy, are plays on that recovery, he said.

President Trump, who often tweets about the rallying stock market, called the 30000 milestone a "sacred number" in a short press conference.

Investors are cheering signs that a protracted fight over control of the White House is potentially drawing to a close, reducing political risks over the winter months. The General Services Administration chief said Monday that her agency would provide Mr. Biden federal resources meant to assist in a smooth transfer of power. Mr. Trump also said he has instructed aides to help with the transition.

"This is very positive: it means that we finally might get an orderly transition process," said Luc Filip, head of private banking investments at SYZ Private Banking. "That would relieve some of the uncertainties that have been weighing on the market over the past two to three weeks."

The S&P 500 also set a fresh record. The index gained 57.82 points, or 1.6%, to 3635.41. The Nasdaq Composite rose 156.15 points, or 1.3%, to 12036.79, its second-highest close ever.

The strength of the rally since March has surprised even market veterans. If the S&P 500 finishes the year higher -- it's up more than 12% now -- it would be the first time the index fell 30% or more during a year and still finished that year higher, said Ryan Detrick, chief market strategist for LPL Financial.

"Who in their right minds would've thought that in April?" he said.

Still, he cautioned against getting too excited, especially given the fervor with which investors are buying risk assets across the board. "Market sentiment is getting pretty excited, but the market has a funny way of not rewarding the masses," he said. A slowdown or pullback from these levels would be completely normal, he said.

Optimism also increased Monday after The Wall Street Journal reported that Mr. Biden plans to select former Federal Reserve Chairwoman Janet Yellen as Treasury secretary. Ms. Yellen has said recently the recovery will be uneven and lackluster if Congress doesn't spend more to fight unemployment and keep small businesses afloat.

One of Ms. Yellen's first decisions could be to potentially reactivate a series of measures to backstop credit growth that the Fed and Treasury launched this spring. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin decided last week that the programs would cease the purchase of loans or assets at the end of the year, declining an extension that had been sought by the Fed.

"She has clearly shown that she's willing to minimize the downside risks to the economy," said Eric Barthalon, global head of capital markets research at Allianz. "This is good news from a markets' point of view."

A warning sign came in the latest survey of U.S. consumer confidence. Consumers' views on the economic outlook soured in November as coronavirus cases soared across the country, according to the Conference Board.

Overseas, the pan-continental Stoxx Europe 600 rose 0.9% 392.39. Among European equities, travel stocks rose after the U.K. government said it would allow travelers to reduce the number of quarantine days, starting Dec. 15, if they test negative for Covid-19.

Travel stocks rose in U.S. trading as well. American Airlines Group, United Airlines Holdings, Southwest Airlines and Alaska Air Group all rose more than 3%.

Write to Anna Hirtenstein at anna.hirtenstein@wsj.com and Paul Vigna at paul.vigna@wsj.com

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

11-24-20 1650ET

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