S&P 500 and Nasdaq Close at Record Highs as Rally Extends to a Third Day

The S&P 500 and the Nasdaq close at record highs.
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  1. The S&P 500 and the Nasdaq closed at record highs as coronavirus fears on Wall Street have eased.
  2. Walt Disney is Real Money's Stock of the Day after the entertainment and media giant said Disney+ subscribers have risen to nearly 29 million.
  3. General Motors posted stronger-than-expected fourth-quarter earnings but said costs linked to a union strike in 2019 totaled $3.6 billion.

The S&P 500 and the Nasdaq closed at record highs Wednesday and global stocks rallied as investors' fears over the spread of the coronavirus eased and reports from China talked of a possible breakthrough in treatment for patients infected by the deadly virus.

Researchers at Zhejiang University were reported to have found a drug that will effectively treat patients suffering from the respiratory illness that has killed nearly 500 people and infected nearly 25,000 more.

The World Health Organization said, however, that there "are no known effective therapeutics against this 2019-nCoV.”

The S&P 500 gained 1.13% to close at 3,334.71, while the Nasdaq, which earlier in the session hit an all-time intraday high, ended up 0.43% to 9,508.68.

It was the third straight day of gains for the major market averages.

Biogen (BIIB) - Get Report led both exchanges after a U.S. Patent Office board ruled that its patent on its multiple sclerosis drug Tecfidera was valid, beating back a challenge from generic-drug maker Mylan (MYL) - Get Report.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average finished up 483 points, or 1.68%, to 29,290. 

UnitedHealth (UNH) - Get Report, IBM (IBM) - Get Report, and ExxonMobil (XOM) - Get Report led the Dow's advance.

Tesla  (TSLA) - Get Report was a laggard on the Nasdaq, falling 18.84% to $719.95 and reversing some of its astonishing gains over recent sessions. The electric automaker said that some of its cars scheduled for February delivery in China will be delayed due to the coronavirus outbreak, which has kept its Shanghai plant shuttered for nearly two weeks.

The U.S. Senate moved to acquit President Donald Trump in his impeachment trial Wednesday afternoon.

Trump put the economy and the strength of the stock market front and center in his third State of the Union address on Tuesday evening, effectively kicking off his re-election campaign by claiming to have achieved many economic milestones since he took office.

“Jobs are booming, incomes are soaring, poverty is plummeting, crime is falling,” Trump said at the beginning of his speech. “Confidence is surging, and our country is thriving and highly respected again.”

Jobs data released Wednesday by Automatic Data Processing that indicated private-sector employment jumped 291,000 in January, well ahead of economists' forecasts. It was the largest gain since May 2015.

The ADP data is a precursor to the official U.S. jobs report for January that will be released Friday.

Trump also boasted about the stock market’s performance since he began his term as president.

“Since my election, U.S. stock markets have soared 70%, adding more than $12 trillion to our nation’s wealth,” Trump said.

Merck  (MRK) - Get Report reported fourth-quarter adjusted earnings of $1.16 a share, 1 cent higher than analysts' estimates but sales of $11.87 billion, an increase of 8% from a year earlier, came up short.

Merck also said it will spin off its women's healthcare division into a separate company as it focuses on "growth pillars" in oncology, vaccines and hospital and animal health.

General Motors  (GM) - Get Report posted stronger-than-expected fourth-quarter earnings but said costs linked to a union strike in 2019 totaled $3.6 billion.

Looking into 2020, GM said it expects adjusted earnings of between $5.75 to $6.25 a share, compared with forecasts of $6.23 a share, and operating cash flow in the region of $13 billion to $14.5 billion.

GM's report was better than that of rival Ford  (F) - Get Report, which saw its shares tumble after missing fourth-quarter earnings expectations and issung a disappointing outlook for 2020.

Walt Disney  (DIS) - Get Report, the entertainment and media giant, posted fiscal first-quarter and sales that beat analysts' estimates thanks to the outperformance of its direct-to-consumer video offering, Disney+.

Disney+ ended the quarter with 26.5 million subscribers, beating analysts' estimates of 20 to 25 million, and accumulated an additional 2 million so far in 2020 thanks to new sign-ups directly on Disney and through various distributors..