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U.S. stocks start September off with more gains, led by tech

The S&P 500 bounced back Tuesday from a modest loss in the early going to finish 0.8% higher.
The S&P 500 bounced back Tuesday from a modest loss in the early going to finish 0.8% higher a day after the benchmark index wrapped up its fifth monthly gain in a row.
(Richard Drew / Associated Press)

Wall Street kicked off September with another set of milestones Tuesday, as an afternoon rally carried the S&P 500 and Nasdaq composite to all-time highs.

The S&P 500 bounced back from a modest loss in the early going to finish 0.8% higher a day after the benchmark index wrapped up its fifth monthly gain in a row. More strength in technology stocks and solid gains in retailers and other companies that rely on consumers offset declines in healthcare companies and elsewhere in the market. Treasury yields fell.

The S&P 500 gained 26.34 points to 3,526.65. The index set several new highs last month. The Dow Jones industrial average recovered from an early, 139-point skid, climbing 215.61 points, or 0.8%, to 28,645.66.

The Nasdaq composite rose 164.21 points, or 1.4%, to 11,939.67. The Russell 2000 index of smaller company stocks also bounced back from a sluggish start, adding 16.71 points, or 1.1%, to 1,578.58.

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The stock market has continued its remarkable turnaround since plunging nearly 34% earlier this year as the COVID-19 pandemic knocked the economy into a downturn. The S&P 500 closed out August with a 7% gain, its best showing since April. It’s now up 9.2% this year, while the tech-driven rally has powered the Nasdaq to a gain of more than 33%.

Encouraging data as broad swaths of the economy have reopened this summer have helped stoke investor optimism about a recovery. The question is whether that’s going to be enough to keep the market moving higher when so much uncertainty remains about the pandemic’s lasting effect on companies and consumers.

Whether the market can sustain its upward trajectory in September, traditionally the worst month for stocks, will depend on how several potentially market-moving variables play out the next few months. Will Congress reach a deal on another economic stimulus bill? Will coronavirus infections surge as students in states where schools are due to reopen go back to the classroom? How will the elections shake out?

Traders have been favoring technology stocks as the pandemic has dragged on, forcing millions of people to rely more than ever on internet-connected devices and online services for work, home-schooling and communication.

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Apple climbed 4% Tuesday. It’s up more than 82% this year. Meanwhile, Zoom Video Communications soared 40.8%, a day after the now-ubiquitous video conferencing service reported another quarter of explosive growth.

Another recent high-flier, Tesla, fell 4.7% after the electric-car maker said it would sell up to $5 billion in stock. Tesla has risen more than five-fold this year and did a 5-for-1 stock split on Monday.

Walmart was among the biggest gainers in the S&P 500 as investors welcomed news of the retail giant’s debut, later this month, of a service offering members same-day delivery, fuel discounts and other perks. The stock rose 6.3%.

Stocks perked up Tuesday following the release of some better-than-expected economic data. The Commerce Department said U.S. construction spending edged higher in July, breaking a string of losses due to disruptions caused by the pandemic. And the Institute for Supply Management said its latest manufacturing index increased last month, reflecting a faster pace of expansion by American factories.

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Investors will be looking for more clues on the state of the economic recovery this week amid what is going to be a busy period for economic news, including the government’s monthly U.S. jobs report on Friday.

The yield on the 10-year Treasury fell to 0.68% from 0.71% late Monday.

Oil prices rose. Benchmark U.S. crude oil for October delivery rose 15 cents to $42.76 a barrel. Brent crude oil for November delivery rose 30 cents to $45.58 a barrel.

Tuesday’s gains for U.S. stocks followed a mostly downbeat finish in European markets. France’s CAC 40 fell 0.2%, while Germany’s DAX added 0.1%. Britain’s FTSE 100 lost 1.7% a day after it was closed for a public holiday. Asian markets ended mixed.


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