The Dow Jones Industrial Average's winning streak continued on Wednesday, closing higher for the 18th time in 22 sessions and clinching a record high for the third day in a row.
A broad rally swept stocks to session highs, helping to overshadow a slump in the health care sector. The Dow jumped by 297 points, a rise of 1.55%, to settle at a record 19,549, thanks to gains in American Express (AXP) - Get American Express Company Report , Home Depot (HD) - Get Home Depot, Inc. (HD) Report and Nike (NKE) - Get NIKE, Inc. (NKE) Report .
The Dow Jones Transportation Average, which holds stocks including JetBlue (JBLU) - Get JetBlue Airways Corporation Report , CSX (CSX) - Get CSX Corporation Report and American Airlines (AAL) - Get American Airlines Group, Inc. Report , rallied nearly 2%. Dow transports were at their best level in two years.
The S&P 500 also closed at a record high of 2,241 after rising by 1.31%. The Nasdaq rose 1.14%.
The health care sector was the only S&P 500 segment in the red. Biotech stocks slumped after President-elect Donald Trump indicated he would target price-gouging in the industry, a cause Democrats had recently championed. In his Time "Person of the Year" interview, Trump said he was "going to bring down drug prices," though failed to elaborate on details.
The SPDR S&P Biotech ETF (XBI) - Get SPDR S&P BIOTECH ETF Report tanked 4%. Individual holdings in the fund, including Ariad Pharmaceuticals (ARIA) , Celgene (CELG) - Get Celgene Corporation Report , Sarepta Therapeutics (SRPT) - Get Sarepta Therapeutics, Inc. Report , bluebird bio (BLUE) - Get bluebird bio, Inc. Report , and Ionis Pharmaceuticals (IONS) - Get Ionis Pharmaceuticals, Inc. Report were sharply lower.
Crude oil continued to slide from highs set at the beginning of the week. Oil clocked losses on Tuesday for the first time since a major production freeze agreement announcement last week. Oil had rallied to 16-month highs after Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries accepted terms to limit output. OPEC's production limit is set to take effect in January.
"Traders eye planned OPEC production cuts with increased skepticism even ahead of a December 10 meeting between the producer group and as many as 14 non-OPEC producers in Vienna," said Tim Evans, energy futures specialist at Citi. "Traders are already noting that already forecast declines from some non-OPEC producers don't really represent any change in the outlook, even as OPEC oil ministers say they'll count them as part of their own tally."
Domestic crude inventories fell at a slightly-faster pace over the past week than analysts expected. Crude stocks fell by 2.4 million barrels, a larger drop than an anticipated decline of 2.2 million barrels.
West Texas Intermediate crude oil closed 2.3% lower at $49.77 a barrel on Wednesday, settling at a one-week low.
The Dow reached a new record close on Tuesday with just small gains. The blue-chip index has crept to new records in the past few weeks as investors bet that President-elect Donald Trump's Cabinet picks would herald Wall Street-friendly moves.
The rest of Wall Street has made small gains in quiet trading this week as investors look toward a crucial meeting of the Federal Reserve next Tuesday and Wednesday. The members of the Fed's decision-making committee are expected to hike rates by 25 basis points after signaling for months that the case for policy normalization had strengthened. Recent economic data showing positive inflation trends and a return to growth in manufacturing have made a year-end hike even more likely.
The likelihood of a rate hike when the Fed meets currently sits at 95%, according to CME Group fed funds futures. Most are anticipating an increase of 25 basis points with a few economists even suggesting the slim chance of an increase of 50 basis points.
"Since mid-year, the incoming data have generally improved and external risks have diminished," Barclays analysts wrote in a note. "While higher interest rates and the substantial appreciated dollar have tightened financial conditions since the September meeting, conditions remain accommodative."
Job openings were unchanged in October, though remained at a level consistent with labor market strength. The number of openings sat at 5.5 million in October, up slightly from 5.486 million in September, according to the Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey.
AT&T (T) - Get AT&T Inc. Report climbed more than 2% as executives at the telecom giant and Time Warner (TWX) addressed lawmakers concerned with antitrust issues surrounding their proposed merger. Senator Mike Lee said in the hearing that the $85 billion deal could bring about "potential anti-competitive favoritism."
Dave & Busters (PLAY) - Get Dave & Buster's Entertainment, Inc. Report jumped 18% after raising its full-year outlook. The arcade restaurant chain expects profit of $86.5 million to $88.5 million for its fiscal year ending January, up from its previous earnings guidance of $80 million to $85 million. Comparable sales growth is expected between 3.1% to 3.6%, compared to a previous target no higher than 3.25%.
Vera Bradley (VRA) - Get Vera Bradley, Inc. Report announced new licensing deals in its home, hosiery and swim units. The company has entered into partnerships with Peking Handicraft, Renfro Corporation, and Mainstream Swimsuits. The company also reported a below-consensus third quarter, missing both adjusted earnings and revenue forecasts. Fourth-quarter guidance also fell short of estimates. The stock declined 13%.
Starbucks (SBUX) - Get Starbucks Corporation Report outlined its five-year plan for growth. The coffee chain expects to add 12,000 stores around the world by 2021 and targets 10% revenue growth and 15% to 20% earnings growth annually in five years.
MasterCard (MA) - Get Mastercard Inc. (MA) Report moved more than 2% higher after lifting its quarterly dividend by 16% to 22 cents a share. The credit card company has also reserved $4 billion to buy back additional stock. Its current share buyback program still has $1.3 billion remaining.