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Stocks post third straight day of gains

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Stocks posted their third straight day of gains Wednesday at the start of a new quarter, as positive vaccine news and upbeat employment data helped investors shake off a spike in coronavirus cases.

The Standard & Poor’s 500 rose 0.5% to 3,115.86. The gains come after the broad index notched its best quarter since 1998 as hopes for a vaccine and an easing of economic lockdowns spurred market confidence.

The Dow Jones industrial average fell 77.91 points to 25,734.97, giving up early gains after initially climbing more than 200 points after the opening bell. The blue-chip average posted its best quarter since 1987 Tuesday following the worst economic downturn since the 1930s.

The Nasdaq Composite gained 1% to 10,154.63, with technology shares propelling the index to a fresh record.

Stocks kicked off the third quarter higher after an experimental vaccine being developed by Pfizer and biotech firm BioNTech was shown to generate antibodies against the virus. Shares of Pfizer, a Dow component, jumped 3.2%.

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Investors focused on signs of an economic recovery following lockdowns in the spring. A report said that the manufacturing sector returned to growth last month, a much better reading than the slight contraction that economists were expecting.

Better-than-expected employment data also provided a boost to investor sentiment. Payrolls processor ADP said private payrolls rose by 2.4 million in June, slightly below economists estimates, but May’s number saw an upward revision from an initially reported loss of 2.76 million to a gain of 3 million.

Investors will get further clues about the health of the economy when weekly unemployment aid applications and the June jobs report are both released Thursday. Stocks markets are closed Friday in observance of July 4.

The Federal Reserve debated whether more options were needed to support the U.S. economy as it reels from a recession triggered by the pandemic, minutes of the central bank’s June policy meeting showed. Policy makers pledged to provide stimulus for the foreseeable future to help the recovery.

To be sure, a resurgence in COVID-19 cases in some countries, particularly the U.S., has tempered optimism in recent weeks.

On Tuesday, 44,766 new cases were confirmed nationwide, according to a tally kept by Johns Hopkins University. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the top infectious disease expert at the National Institutes of Health, warned that new infections could increase to 100,000 a day if the nation doesn’t get the ongoing surge under control.

“The U.S. remains the key hotspot for investors, with Florida and Texas potentially the first of many states that will require another a second bout of restrictions if the virus is to be brought under control,” Joshua Mahony, senior market analyst at IG, an online trading provider, wrote in a note.

On Wednesday, FedEx jumped 11.7% after it reported better results for the latest quarter than Wall Street expected. A boom in online shopping helped drive revenue for FedEx’s ground-delivery business.

Netflix rose 6.7%, one of the big gainers among communication sector stocks, which have benefited as people stuck at home spend more time online.

Travel-related stocks were also strong, with Royal Caribbean Cruises and Marriott International both up 1%.

The yield on the 10-year Treasury rose to 0.67% from 0.65% late Tuesday. It tends to move with investors’ expectations for the economy and inflation.

A barrel of U.S. crude oil rose 1% to $39.68. Brent crude, the international standard, rose 1.7% to $41.99.

In Europe, France’s CAC 40 fell 0.2% while Germany’s DAX dropped 0.4%. Britain’s FTSE 100 was 0.2% lower.

Japan’s benchmark Nikkei 225 slipped nearly 0.8%. South Korea’s Kospi inched down nearly 0.1%. Australia’s S&P ASX 200 gained 0.6%. The Shanghai Composite rose 1.4% while trading was closed in Hong Kong for a holiday.

Contributing: The Associated Press

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Dow: Pfizer shares jump as COVID-19 vaccine shows positive results