Wall Street climbs on vaccine hopes, upbeat retail sales data

FILE PHOTO: A street sign is seen in front of the New York Stock Exchange on Wall Street in New York
FILE PHOTO: A street sign is seen in front of the New York Stock Exchange on Wall Street in New York, February 10, 2009. (REUTERS/Eric Thayer)

By Medha Singh and Shivani Kumaresan, Reuters

Wall Street bounced back on Friday after three straight days of losses as Pfizer said it could apply for emergency use of its COVID-19 vaccine candidate as early as November, while data showed stronger-than-expected retail sales growth last month.

The drugmaker’s shares firmed 1.4% as it expects to provide safety data and file for authorization of the vaccine, which it is developing with Germany’s BioNTech SE, as soon as a safety milestone is achieved in the third week of November.

BioNTech’s U.S.-listed shares jumped 2.8%.

“Amid a stagnating labor market, the jump in retail sales this month suggests consumer strength is pretty robust,” said Mike Loewengart, managing director of investment strategy at E*TRADE Financial LLC in Jersey City.

“While a resilient consumer is a broad positive for the recovery, today’s results could reduce the pressure on lawmakers to get any stimulus measure through before the election.”

Latest data showed U.S. retail sales increased more than expected in September, though recovery from the recession is at a crossroads as government money runs out and new COVID-19 infections surge across the country.

Trading on Wall Street this week has been dictated by news about more federal aid to help businesses and households reeling from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, with the S&P 500 on track for its smallest weekly gains in three.

Talks between Democrats and Republicans also seem unlikely to yield a deal before the Nov. 3 election.

President Donald Trump and Democratic challenger Joe Biden will return to the campaign trail with visits to three battleground states, a day after the two contenders clashed from afar during dueling televised town halls.

Meanwhile, after a mixed start to the third-quarter earnings season from the big Wall Street lenders, investors will look next week to results from Netflix Inc, one of the technology mega-caps that have benefited from stay-at-home demand during the pandemic.

Analysts’ expectations for S&P 500 companies’ earnings have improved to an 18.8% fall from a 25% tumble forecast three months earlier.

Schlumberger dropped 4.6% after the top oilfield services provider reported a third straight quarterly loss.

Kansas City Southern shed 0.9% as the railroad operator’s quarterly revenue missed estimates, as shipment volumes fell due to a pandemic-induced fall in service demand.

At 9:41 a.m. ET, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 163.50 points, or 0.57%, at 28,657.70, the S&P 500 was up 13.85 points, or 0.40%, at 3,497.19. The Nasdaq Composite was up 58.79 points, or 0.50%, at 11,772.66.

Nine of the 11 major S&P sectors rose. Energy and real estate indexes were the only ones in the negative territory.

Boeing Co rose 4.8% as a report said Europe’s aviation regulator had declared the U.S. planemaker’s 737 MAX safe to fly again.

Advancing issues outnumbered decliners for a 1.06-to-1 ratio on the NYSE and a 1.03-to-1 ratio on the Nasdaq.

The S&P index recorded 33 new 52-week highs and no new low, while the Nasdaq recorded 41 new highs and six new lows.