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Nasdaq at Record - Stocks Up on Disney Report, J&J Vaccine Pact

The Nasdaq closes at a record and stocks end higher as investors focused on Washington's economic-stimulus talks, Disney's profit and J&J's vaccine accord.

The Nasdaq on Wednesday marked its 31st record close of 2020 and stocks finished higher as Walt Disney  (DIS) - Get Walt Disney Company Report reported a modest profit despite the pandemic and Johnson & Johnson reached an agreement with the U.S. on a potential coronavirus vaccine.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average posted its fourth straight day of gains, finishing up 373 points, or 1.39%, to 27,201. The S&P 500 was up 0.64% to 3,327, while the Nasdaq Composite finished up 0.52% at 10,998.

Johnson & Johnson  (JNJ) - Get Johnson & Johnson (JNJ) Report advanced after the healthcare giant said it reached an agreement with the U.S. government to provide 100 million doses of its potential coronavirus vaccine. 

In economic news, U.S. private payrolls increased by 167,000 in July after a strong rebound of 2.37 million in June, according to the ADP National Employment Report. Economists expected 1.5 million additions last month.

"With both gold and the Nasdaq 100 hitting all-time highs, this could almost seem contradictory, but it’s really part of the same play," said Chris Larkin, managing director at E-Trade Financial. 

Investors are ["shoring] up their defensive arsenals with companies that have proven to outperform in our new stay-at-home environment that many consider to be the new normal."

Larkin added that "the market has a lot to digest with the shockingly low ADP read this morning, sending signals that the return to work has cooled off since last month."

"We’ve seen the market brush off economic signs of weakness before, but it remains to be seen how long that type of response will last," he said. 

Congress inched closer to a new wave of support for the stalled U.S. economy. White House officials vowed to work "around the clock" with Democrats in order to bridge the gap between their $3.2 trillion proposal and the Republicans' $1 trillion counter-offer. 

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On Tuesday Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) said he could support an extension of the now-lapsed $600 federal unemployment insurance boost — if President Donald Trump ends up backing it.

Disney climbed after the entertainment giant posted a modest second-quarter profit even as it swallowed some $5 billion in costs related to the global coronavirus pandemic.

Apple  (AAPL) - Get Apple Inc. (AAPL) Report is closing in on the first $2 trillion valuation in market history following last week's blowout third-quarter earnings. The report included a 26% rise in profit and a 13% gain in total sales, which came in just under $60 billion. 

Moderna  (MRNA) - Get Moderna, Inc. Report slipped after reporting $66.4 million in second-quarter revenue, five times more than the $13.1 million total a year earlier. The company also said it was charging $32 to $37 per dose for its coronavirus vaccine for some customers, under cheaper “pandemic pricing.” 

"We will be responsible on price well below value during the pandemic," Chief Executive Stéphane Bancel said on a conference call, adding that larger volume agreements under discussion will be at a lower price, according to Reuters.

Meanwhile, biotechnology company Novavax  (NVAX) - Get Novavax, Inc. Report surged on Wednesday after the company said its trial vaccine to prevent covid-19 generated a promising immune response in an early-stage clinical trial.

Virgin Atlantic, the airline founded by British businessman Richard Branson, filed Tuesday for protection in U.S. bankruptcy court as it tries to survive the virus pandemic, which has hammered the airline industry, the Associated Press reported.

The airline made the Chapter 15 filing in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in New York after a proceeding in the U.K.

Virtual health-care services company Teladoc Health  (TDOC) - Get Teladoc Health, Inc. Report agreed to acquire Livongo Health  (LVGO) - Get Livongo Health, Inc. Report in a deal valued at $18.5 billion. The deal will create a virtual health platform.

Airline shares rose after 16 Republican senators on Wednesday backed $25 billion in additional federal aid, CNBC reported. United Airlines  (UAL) - Get United Airlines Holdings, Inc. Report, Delta Air Lines  (DAL) - Get Delta Air Lines, Inc. Report, and American Airlines (AAL) - Get American Airlines Group, Inc. Report all finished higher.