Wall Street Rallies Again

NEW YORK (AP) -- Stocks are rising again in early Wednesday trading on Wall Street, and the S&P 500 is ticking closer to its record high as it tries for a fourth straight gain.

The S&P 500 was 0.6% higher after the first 30 minutes of trading, following up on gains in European markets and across much of Asia. It's back within 2% of its record for the first time since February. Treasury yields and gold also pushed higher, while crude oil prices strengthened.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 262 points, or 1%, at 27,086, as of 10 a.m. Eastern time, and the Nasdaq composite was up 0.3%. Stocks of smaller companies were also rallying, a sign of rising optimism in the economy's prospects, and the Russell 2000 index of small-cap stocks gained 1%.

Much of Wall Street's focus this week has been on Washington, where Congress and White House officials are negotiating on more aid for the hobbling economy. Investors say such a package is crucial and needs to arrive quickly, with millions of Americans still out of work and $600 in weekly unemployment benefits from the U.S. government having recently expired.

Negotiators said the two sides remain far apart on key issues. But Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin also said late Tuesday that the two sides set a goal of reaching an agreement by the end of the week to permit a vote next week.

The pressure on Washington to act quickly is mounting even higher. A report on Wednesday suggested that hiring was far weaker last month than economists expected. Private employers added just 167,000 jobs, according to a survey by payroll processor ADP, well below the 1.2 million that economists had forecast..

That puts an even brighter spotlight on Friday's more comprehensive jobs report coming from the Labor Department.

The Walt Disney Co. rose 9.7% for one of the biggest gains in the S&P 500 after the media giant reported a profit for the spring that beat Wall Street's expectations, even if it was down sharply from a year earlier.

That's been the trend across much of the market this reporting season. Stocks have continued to climb even though S&P 500 companies appear to be on track to report a roughly 34% drop in earnings per share from a year earlier, according to FactSet.

Investors are betting that the plunge in profits will prove to be only temporary and that earnings will recover as economies reopen and a vaccine for the new coronavirus hopefully helps the world get closer to normal.

Shares of biotech company Novavax surged 18.6% after it reported data on its vaccine candidate for COVID-19. Analysts cautioned not to over-interpret the data but called it encouraging.

Treasury yields rose, reclaiming some of their lost ground from a day before. The yield on the 10-year Treasury climbed to 0.53% from 0.51% late Tuesday.

Yields have remained very low as investors' worries have continued about the weak economy and as the Federal Reserve has unleashed massive amounts of stimulus.

Gold rose even further into record territory, adding 1.8% to $2,057.10 per ounce. It also has climbed amid nervousness about the economy and super-low interest rates.

In Europe, Germany's DAX returned 0.4%, and France's CAC 40 rose 0.7%. The FTSE 100 in London added 0.8%.

In Asia, Japan's Nikkei 225 slipped 0.3%, but South Korea's Kospi added 1.4%. Hong Kong's Hang Seng rose 0.6%, and stocks in Shanghai inched up 0.2%.

Benchmark U.S. crude rose 3.9% to $43.33 per barrel. Brent crude, the international standard, added 3.4% to $45.94 per barrel.