U.S. markets on Monday were poised to see one of their strongest opens in months after progress on a Covid-19 vaccine and Democrat Joe Biden’s electoral victory sent stock futures soaring and boosted companies in the hardest-hit sectors of the economy.
Futures tied to the S&P 500 surged 4.2%, suggesting that last week’s advance, the strongest since April, will resume after the New York opening bell. Dow Jones Industrial Average futures soared 5.5%, with the Dow poised to open 1,400 points higher. Such an open would push the Dow past its intraday record high from February.
Markets rallied after a vaccine developed by Pfizer Inc. and partner BioNTech SE proved better than expected at protecting people from Covid-19 in a pivotal study, a milestone in the hunt for shots that can stop the global pandemic.
The vaccine jolted markets, at least temporarily, reviving the fortunes of the pandemic losers, such as airlines, travel companies and banks. Meanwhile, the pandemic winning stocks, such as big tech companies, performed less well. Tech heavy Nasdaq-100 futures rose 0.5%. Brent crude oil rose more than 10% and European bank stocks shot 9% higher.
The positive, though incomplete, results bring the vaccine a big step closer to getting cleared for widespread use. Pfizer said it is on track to ask health regulators for permission to sell the shot before the end of this month, if pending data indicate the vaccine is safe.
In premarket trading, shares in Pfizer rose 13%.
Following the vaccine announcement, the yield on the 10-year Treasury moved higher to 0.911%, from 0.821% Friday. In commodities, copper
futures rose as much as 1.5% to $7,048 a metric ton on the London Metal Exchange, their highest level June 2018.
The vaccine news caught key parts of the markets off guard, with sharp, sudden moves in even the most liquid assets. In addition to the surge in Treasury yields, the Japanese yen slid 1.5% against the dollar to 104.96. Gold fell 3% to $1,894 per troy ounce.
The moves suggested investors were instantly recalibrating their forecasts for faster economic growth and higher inflation based on the vaccine news, as a successful vaccine has the potential to restart swaths of the economy hobbled by the pandemic. A reopening of the economy would also weaken the advantage tech companies, who thrive on virtual experiences and lack of social contact, have enjoyed during the pandemic.
Shares in the hardest-hit sectors, including travel and leisure companies, rallied in premarket trading too, with Carnival Corp. up 28% and American Airlines Group Inc. gaining more than 21%.
“We all sort of knew that November would be a pretty important period for last stage news on the three main vaccines. The news is clearly pretty positive,” said James McCormick, a strategist at NatWest Markets. “We’ve got the election past us and now the market is focusing on what’s next.”
The new leg of the rally in stocks also reflects the reduced uncertainty surrounding the U.S. elections, combined with expectations that a Democrat-controlled White House and divided Congress could result in moderate policy measures on taxes and spending.
“The market-friendly bits of Biden will be in place: the lack of volatility, more clear foreign policy,” said Altaf Kassam, head of investment strategy for State Street Global Advisors in Europe. “But at the same time, the bits that the market was worried about—higher taxes and more regulation—will not happen. That’s what’s been driving the market higher.”
Overseas, the pan-continental Stoxx Europe 600 jumped 4.1%. Regional markets in Asia also rallied, with benchmarks in Japan, South Korea, India and Taiwan hitting multiyear or record highs.
Overseas investors expect that an administration led by President-elect Biden will engage in more predictable foreign policy, and may be less inclined to levy tariffs or unexpectedly escalate tensions with China, Mr. McCormick, said. “Equities outside of the U.S. get a nice lift from this,” he said.
Asia is likely to benefit as higher trade tariffs become less likely, according to Tai Hui, chief market strategist for the region at J.P. Morgan Asset Management. “A lot of the shocks we’ve experienced in the past three years will be less of a concern. And investors will welcome that,” he said.
China’s Shanghai Composite Index closed 1.9% higher and Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index rose 1.2%. The Chinese yuan rallied to about 6.56 per U.S. dollar in the offshore market, trading at its strongest levels in more than two years.
“The consensus is that Biden will be easier on trade and foreign policy, unlike Trump who is more erratic and aggressive,” said Colin Low, senior macro analyst at FSMOne.com in Singapore.
Japan’s Nikkei 225 gained 2.1% to close at a fresh 29-year high, after ending Friday at levels last hit in 1991.
The WSJ Dollar Index, which tracks the U.S. currency against a basket of 16 others, was largely unchanged near its lowest since June 2018. The Japanese yen and the Swiss franc fell 1.5% and 0.4%, respectively, against the dollar as investors left safer assets.
“Globally, investors are just happy to turn the page on the U.S. elections,” said Eli Lee, head of investment strategy at Bank of Singapore. Mr. Lee said the feared scenario of a drawn-out contested election had diminished, reducing uncertainty for markets and for policy makers such as the Federal Reserve.
“The Fed has been on the back foot for the past couple of months as it wants clarity on what policies would be on the fiscal front to craft monetary policies to support the economic recovery,” he said.
Joe Biden, on his third run for the presidency, defeated President Donald Trump,
the Associated Press reports. WSJ’s Jason Bellini reports on his path to victory.
Photo: Andrew Harnik/AFP/Getty Images