The Wall Street Journal – November 20, 2020

The Dow Jones Industrial Average jumped past 30000 for the first time Tuesday, the latest milestone in a postelection rally turbocharged by promising results from three potential coronavirus vaccines.

The index of blue-chip companies gained more 490 points in recent trading, or 1.7%, to push it to a recent 30081. At its peak, the Dow reached 30116.51, its highest intraday level in history.

The rise beyond 30000 underscores this year’s remarkable journey for the Dow industrials. The blue-chip index flirted with 30000 in February, then dropped below 19000 in March as the coronavirus pandemic spread. The index has since soared, thanks, in part, to an improving economic landscape and low-interest rates that have boosted the appeal of riskier assets.

Tuesday’s leg up came after President Trump said his aides would cooperate with President-elect Joe Biden’s transition to the White House, easing investors’ concerns about a drawn-out period of uncertainty.

Having the Dow hit a new milestone at any time is a psychological boost, said Oanda analyst Craig Erlam, but hitting one now is even more notable.

“The idea that we’re hitting Dow 30000 in a pandemic year, the same year where it almost hit 18000, is utterly outrageous,” he said.

The markets were already bullish, he said, rising on the recent spate of hopeful coronavirus vaccine news. Knowing that the Biden administration can start focusing on the economy and the pandemic is another boost for investors, he said.

“Everyone can put on their Dow 30000 hats and we can have a big, virtual party,” he added.

The S&P 500 rose 1.6%, pointing to a second day of gains, while the Nasdaq Composite rose 1.2%.

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.”

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.”

The WSJ Dollar Index, which measures the greenback against a basket of currencies, declined 0.3%. The digital currency bitcoin, meanwhile, rose 5.5% to $19,392, closing in on its record high of $19,783 set in December 2017.

In bond markets, the yield on 10-year U.S. Treasury notes edged up to 0.873%, from 0.857% on Monday.

Brent crude, the international benchmark for oil, rose to its highest since the turmoil in markets in the spring, ticking up 4.1% to $47.93 a barrel. U.S. crude oil rose 4.8% to $45.11.

“Oil demand rebound in 2021 is now a certainty, and markets are not waiting to price it in,” said Bjarne Schieldrop, chief commodities analyst at Nordic bank SEB. “Add in the new stability from Biden, and it is again possible to make sensible predictions.”

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.

Companies including Dell Technologies and retailers Gap and Nordstrom are scheduled to report earnings after markets close. Investors will be scrutinizing their results for further insights into businesses’ ability to operate and their guidance for the coming months in light of the fresh limits on commercial activity around the world.

Overseas, the pan-continental Stoxx Europe 600 rose 0.8%.

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.

Most major Asian benchmarks edged up by the close of trading. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng added 0.4% and Japan’s Nikkei 225 jumped 2.5%, playing catch up after being closed Monday for a holiday. China’s Shanghai Composite Index ticked down 0.3%.

By Anna Hirtenstein

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