Stock Market Today: Nasdaq Hits New Highs to Start Q3

The first day of 2020's second half kicked off with a mixed trading session that saw Amazon (AMZN) and Facebook (FB) help the Nasdaq to new highs.

Stocks struggled for direction on the first trading day of the second half, as promising news about a possible COVID-19 vaccine and better economic data were tempered by a drop in energy stocks.

A reading that showed U.S. manufacturing activity hit its highest level in more than a year helped bullish sentiment, as did an announcement that Pfizer's (PFE, +3.2%) coronavirus vaccine under development was found to be well tolerated in early-stage human trials.

In a countervailing trade, energy stocks declined amid fears that the U.S. could see a return to widespread lockdowns to slow the spread of COVID-19.

Subscribe to Kiplinger’s Personal Finance

Be a smarter, better informed investor.

Save up to 74%

Sign up for Kiplinger’s Free E-Newsletters

Profit and prosper with the best of expert advice on investing, taxes, retirement, personal finance and more - straight to your e-mail.

Profit and prosper with the best of expert advice - straight to your e-mail.

Sign up

Strength in the technology sector kept the Nasdaq aloft. Amazon (AMZN, +4.4%) and Facebook (FB, +4.6%) in specific gave the tech-heavy composite enough oomph to gain 1.0% to a record-high 10,154. The S&P 500 finished 0.5% higher to 3,115, while the Dow closed Wednesday down 0.3% to 25,734. The small-cap Russell 2000 lagged them all, dropping 1.0% to end at 1,427.

While fears of shutdowns dragged down economically sensitive small caps and the energy sector, Brad McMillan, Chief Investment Officer for Commonwealth Financial Network, offers up some optimism for investors in his midyear outlook:

"The real question about the coronavirus for the rest of 2020 is not if there will be a second wave, but whether it will be large enough to derail the economic recovery underway," he writes. "So far, it does not look like it will. As of late June, we are seeing significant second waves in several states, and rising case counts in many others.

"Although it is quite possible we will see lockdowns locally, a national shutdown looks unlikely, which should allow much of the recovery to continue."

A Different Investing Landscape

As uncertain as the pandemic has made investors of all stripes, one thing Wall Street can agree on is that coronavirus has changed the way we live and, by extension, the way we invest.

Health-care stocks were once thought to be boring-but-solid value stocks, and not much more. Now, fear of new diseases has caused some of these defensive, nest-egg investments to morph into growth stocks.

Meanwhile, emerging-markets stocks, once left for dead, are starting to show signs of life.

Indeed, there's even a new exchange-traded fund, the Direxion Work From Home ETF (WFH) that seeks to capture the upside of more and more people working from home. Investors who want to profit from this angle of life in a pandemic by building their own portfolios can get a head start by checking out names that will flourish in the work-from-home age.

Dan Burrows
Senior Investing Writer,

Dan Burrows is Kiplinger's senior investing writer, having joined the august publication full time in 2016.

A long-time financial journalist, Dan is a veteran of SmartMoney, MarketWatch, CBS MoneyWatch, InvestorPlace and DailyFinance. He has written for The Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, Consumer Reports, Senior Executive and Boston magazine, and his stories have appeared in the New York Daily News, the San Jose Mercury News and Investor's Business Daily, among other publications. As a senior writer at AOL's DailyFinance, Dan reported market news from the floor of the New York Stock Exchange and hosted a weekly video segment on equities.

Once upon a time – before his days as a financial reporter and assistant financial editor at legendary fashion trade paper Women's Wear Daily – Dan worked for Spy magazine, scribbled away at Time Inc. and contributed to Maxim magazine back when lad mags were a thing. He's also written for Esquire magazine's Dubious Achievements Awards.

In his current role at Kiplinger, Dan writes about equities, fixed income, currencies, commodities, funds, macroeconomics, demographics, real estate, cost of living indexes and more.

Dan holds a bachelor's degree from Oberlin College and a master's degree from Columbia University.

Disclosure: Dan does not trade stocks or other securities. Rather, he dollar-cost averages into cheap funds and index funds and holds them forever in tax-advantaged accounts.