Markets

Stock Market Today: Tech Stocks Lead Wall Street Forward Again

U.S coronavirus cases continue to spike, but Apple helped lead another Big Tech rally to drive the major indices higher Wednesday.

Wednesday's scene was a familiar one: A day of choppy trading that saw the Nasdaq and its host of mega-caap tech stocks outpace the other blue-chip indices.

The U.S. reported another record spike in coronavirus cases yesterday, which appeared to weigh on most of the market early in the day. But stocks firmed up later in the day, led by solid gains for Big Tech.

Apple (AAPL) advanced by 2.3% after Deutsche Bank analyst Jeriel Ong raised his price target to $400 per share.

"We do have some worry that the stock price has overreacted to the positive data points over the past two months, and the rough mental framework we've articulated certainly gives us some pause," Ong writes. However, "despite our worries, we do reiterate our confidence that AAPL can work from present levels."

Microsoft (MSFT, +2.2%) and Amazon.com (AMZN, +2.7%) were among other notable winners Wednesday.

The Nasdaq shot 1.4% higher to 10,492, closing yet again at all-time highs. The Dow gained 0.7% to 26,067, the S&P 500 closed 0.8% higher to 3,169, and the small-cap Russell 2000 finished with a 0.8% improvement to 1,427.

An Ugly Second Quarter for Dividends

New data out Wednesday delivered some discouraging news on the income investing front, however.

Howard Silverblatt, senior index analyst for S&P Dow Jones Indices, reports that, during the second quarter, the U.S. equity market saw a net decline of $42.5 billion in dividend payments, the worst such drop since a $43.8 billion plunge in Q1 2009.

You can chalk that up to a much-smaller-than-usual number of dividend increases amid the COVID drawdown, as well as a slew of dividend cuts and suspensions, which included 50 S&P 500 components.

"Suspensions accounted for over half the cuts (334 of 639), as there was little time to react or hold out for some companies, as those holders will get nothing for Q3,'20," Silverblatt writes.

Still, there's a little silver lining.

"Most surviving dividend issues keep an a stiff upper lip for now, with overall 2020 damage appearing to be a low single-digit decline," Silverblatt writes. "It's not the high-single-digit dividend gain expected for 2020 at year-end 2019, but for a diversified portfolio the damage could be limited for 2020."

If there's any good news, it's that the Dividend Aristocrats – stocks that have increased their dividends for 25 or more consecutive years – have (almost entirely) come through this with their dividends intact so far. So far, only one Aristocrat – a retailer – has had to suspend its payouts this year, and only a few have put off their regularly scheduled upticks. And even they still have time in 2020 to announce increases and maintain their membership.

Here, we look at an updated look at the Dividend Aristocrats (including some newcomers to the list), whose yields have shifted considerably over the past few months.

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