US stock markets end the week at fresh records

The main US stock indexes finished at record closing highs on Friday and booked solid gains for the week following a strong US jobs report and positive data for Pfizer’s experimental pill against Covid-19.

The S&P 500 and the Nasdaq notched record high closes for their seventh straight sessions, while the Dow Jones Industrial Average also closed at a record. All three indexes posted weekly gains for their fifth straight weeks.

The Labor Department report showed US employment increased more than expected in October as the headwind from the surge in Covid-19 infections over the summer subsided.

A trial of Pfizer’s experimental antiviral pill for Covid-19 was stopped early after the drug was shown to cut by 89 percent the chances of hospitalisation or death for adults at risk of developing severe disease. Pfizer shares jumped about 11 percent.

The news kept the run going for equities after investors earlier in the week digested the Federal Reserve’s decision to start reducing its monthly bond purchases put in place to support the economy.

“Momentum that we have seen this week has continued, and the jobs report and the Pfizer announcement certainly are providing positive datapoints for investors to put more money into the market right now,” said Chuck Carlson, chief executive officer at Horizon Investment Services in Hammond, Indiana.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 0.6 percent to 36,327, the S&P 500 gained 0.4 percent to 4,697 and the Nasdaq Composite added 0.2 percent to 15,9719.

Travel stocks rose following Pfizer’s announcement, with the S&P 1500 airlines index climbing 7 percent, and cruise operators Carnival, Royal Caribbean Cruises and Norwegian Cruise rising between about 8 percent and 9 percent.

“Still early to be definitive but this (pill) looks like a true game changer for many industries like leisure and transportation, you’re seeing it reflected in the prices,” said Andre Bakhos, managing director at New Vines Capital in Bernardsville, New Jersey.

Healthcare was the only sector that ended down, falling 1 percent. The Pfizer news weighed on shares of competitors such as Merck, which fell nearly 10 percent, and Covid-19 vaccine makers such as Moderna, which slumped 16.6 percent.

Pinterest shares climbed 5.9 percent after the company’s strong fourth-quarter revenue forecast. (Reuters)