US indices hit records as traders bet Covid surge will end

·3-min read
Wall Street stock indices made records ahead of a highly anticipated speech by Fed Chair Jerome Powell

US indices hit records again in Wednesday's session as investors renewed their faith that the current Covid-19 surge will end, though trading was subdued elsewhere in the world.

The S&P 500 poked above 4,500 for the first time, closing just below that level with a second straight record amid signs infections from the fast-spreading Delta variant of the virus may have plateaued. And the tech-rich Nasdaq ended at a new all-time high for the third session in a row.

"The rebound for stocks has come amid cooling concerns about the global spread of the Delta variant, as data suggests cases may be peaking and as the (US Food and Drug Administration) fully approved a coronavirus vaccine this week," analysts from Charles Schwab investment bank said.

In Europe, London and Paris markets advanced less than half of one percent, while Frankfurt sagged 0.3 percent following a disappointing survey of business confidence.

Oil prices made further gains after jumping more than eight percent in the previous two days on hopes for a demand rebound.

Asian markets were also mixed, with news that US President Joe Biden's multi-trillion-dollar spending plans were edging closer to passage providing another colossal boost, but offset by profit-taking after a strong start to the week.

"What can't be overlooked, however, is that there still isn't any concerted selling interest," said market analyst Patrick O'Hare at Briefing.co.

However markets are bracing themselves for Friday, when Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell is due to make a speech in which he could signal changes to the US central bank's easy money policies, which have fueled the big equity gains over the past year and a half.

But many economists caution that Powell is unlikely to provide details just yet about plans to ease up on the US central bank's massive bond purchases.

- Positive vaccine news -

Markets generally retreated last week on worries over the Delta variant, Afghanistan turmoil, China concerns and expectations that the Fed will begin tapering financial support.

However, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) decision on Monday to give full approval to the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine has provided a huge lift to sentiment and eased Delta worries in the world's top economy.

That came as some countries including the United States see infection spikes easing, while China appears to have overcome a weeks-long outbreak.

Still, others such as Australia, Japan, and New Zealand remain in a tough battle with the disease, forcing them into containment measures.

The FDA move "is paving the way for organizations to mandate vaccines for workers and thus lift vaccination rates higher", said National Australia Bank's Tapas Strickland.

In the latest move by an American company to encourage vaccinations, Delta Airlines announced it would make employees who do not get the jabs pay a $200 monthly fee beginning in November to offset health costs.

- Key figures around 2030 GMT -

New York - Dow: UP 0.1 percent at 35,405.50 (close)

New York - S&P 500: UP 0.2 percent at 4,496.19 (close)

New York - Nasdaq: UP 0.2 percent at 15,041.86 (close)

EURO STOXX 50: UP 0.1 percent at 4,181.12 (close)

London - FTSE 100: UP 0.3 percent at 7,150.12 (close)

Frankfurt - DAX 30: DOWN 0.3 percent at 15,860.66 (close)

Paris - CAC 40: UP 0.2 percent at 6,676.48 (close)

Tokyo - Nikkei 225: FLAT at 27,724.80 (close)

Hong Kong - Hang Seng Index: DOWN 0.1 percent at 25,693.95 (close)

Shanghai - Composite: UP 0.7 percent at 3,540.38 (close)

Euro/dollar: UP at $1.1772 from $1.1756

Pound/dollar: UP at $1.3760 from $1.3729

Euro/pound: DOWN at 85.54 pence from 85.63 pence

Dollar/yen: UP at 110.00 yen from 109.65 yen

West Texas Intermediate: UP 1.0 percent at $68.18 per barrel

Brent North Sea crude: UP 1.0 percent at $72.08 per barrel

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