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Nasdaq rallies, as financials limit S&P, Dow gains

Jonathan Garber

U.S. equity markets marched higher before letting off some steam in the final hour of trading to end the session mixed.

The tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite gained 1.21% helped by Amazon, Facebook and Tesla.

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Apple shares closed modestly higher after the company's updates to the Apple Watch and iPad products were met with lukewarm demand, as was its long-await services bundle. Shares closed just below the $2 trillion market value.

The S&P rose 0.52% while the Dow Jones Industrial Average closed little changed at 27,995.60. Financials limited gains on the broader averages ahead of the Federal Reserve's decision on interest rates due Wednesday.

In general, investor sentiment got a boost as optimism continued to swirl around the possibility that a COVID-19 vaccine could be announced in a matter of weeks.

“We’re going to have a vaccine in a matter of weeks, it could be four weeks, it could be eight weeks,” President Trump told "Fox & Friends" on Tuesday. “I’m not doing it for political reasons, I want the vaccine fast.”

Looking at drug stocks, Moderna Inc., Pfizer Inc. and Johnson & Johnson ticked higher while BioNtech SE gained on news it received 375 million euros of German funding for a COVID-19 vaccine and Novavax Inc. announced an agreement with Serum Institute of India to manufacture 2 billion doses annually of its experimental COVID-19 vaccine.

Nikola Corp. shares continued to see volatility after the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission opened an investigation into the electric-truck maker after short-seller Hindenberg Research last week accused the company of misleading partners about its technology. Nikola has called the claims “false and deceptive.”

Meanwhile, Kraft Heinz Co. plans to reduce costs by $2 billion over the next five years, CEO Miguel Patricio told The Wall Street Journal. The company plans to use some of the savings to increase marketing spending by 30%. It also announced a deal to sell its cheese business to France's Lactalis Group for over $3 billion.

Citigroup Inc. will trim less than 1% of its global workforce after previously announcing it would pause staff reductions amid the pandemic. The company’s headcount is expected to hold relatively steady due to recent hiring.

Looking at earnings, homebuilder Lennar Corp. reported better-than-expected top and bottom-line results as sales grew in all major markets. However, the company warned average sale prices are set to decline during the current quarter.

Looking at commodities, West Texas Intermediate crude oil climbed $1.02 cents to $38.28 per barrel and gold rose $3.20 to $1,956.30 an ounce.

U.S. Treasurys slipped, causing the yield on the 10-year note to edge up to 0.678%.

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European markets were rallying across the board with Britain’s FTSE up 1.07%, France’s CAC higher by 0.37% and Germany’s DAX gaining 0.33%.

In Asia, Japan’s Nikkei slid 0.44% while Hong Kong’s Hang Seng and China’s Shanghai Composite added 0.38% and 0.52%, respectively.

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