Stock Market Today: The Only Clear Winner Right Now? Stocks.

U.S. markets surged Wednesday amid a still-to-be-decided election that was pointing in Joe Biden's favor, but with no 'blue wave.'

A line of election workers counting ballots at a table.
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Political chaos? You'd never have guessed it by the stock market's response Wednesday to the presidential election, which indeed has still not been decided. Investors who slept in after a long night of election-watching woke up with considerably more money in their portfolios than they went to sleep with.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 1.3% to 27,847, though late profit-taking cut the Dow's haul by more than half. The S&P 500 enjoyed one of its best post-election gains ever, jumping 2.2% to 3,443.

And the Nasdaq Composite was the most resilient of the blue-chip indices, hanging on for a 3.9% improvement to 11,590 thanks to the likes of Amazon.com (AMZN (opens in new tab), +6.3%), Facebook (FB (opens in new tab), +8.3%) and Google parent Alphabet (GOOGL (opens in new tab), +6.1%).

Subscribe to Kiplinger’s Personal Finance

Be a smarter, better informed investor.

Save up to 74%
https://cdn.mos.cms.futurecdn.net/flexiimages/xrd7fjmf8g1657008683.png

Sign up for Kiplinger’s Free E-Newsletters

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

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

Sign up

"One of the big takeaways so far from Tuesday night is that the Senate likely will stay Republican, meaning we may have a divided Congress," says Ryan Detrick, chief market strategist for LPL Financial. "The chances of higher taxes and more regulation likely took a hit under this scenario. This could be a nice tailwind for stocks, as the S&P 500 historically has done quite well under a divided Congress, up more than 17% on average.

"Additionally, in years with a divided Congress, stocks have been higher the past 10 times, with 2020 potentially being the 11th in a row.

Other action in the stock market today:

  • The Russell 2000 was virtually flat, gaining less than one point to 1,615.
  • U.S. crude oil futures jumped 4.1% to $39.18 per barrel.
  • Gold futures were off 0.7% to $1,896.20 per ounce.

Who Wins, Who Loses?

But Wednesday wasn't an across-the-board rally -- there were big winners and big losers.

Bank stocks, as measured by the SPDR S&P Bank ETF (KBE (opens in new tab)), dropped 5.4% today as interest rates plunged, while energy (+0.1%) crawled and materials (-1.7%) struggled on fears of a diminished federal stimulus package from a divided government.

However, healthcare stocks such as UnitedHealth Group (UNH (opens in new tab), +10.3%) and Merck (MRK (opens in new tab), +4.8%) soared in response to Joe Biden's slim lead, given the potential for less uncertainty around health care policy.

And, as mentioned earlier, technology and tech-esque stocks had a field day today. But why?

"With no blue wave, we are likely to see the Senate remain very closely divided, which will constrain the policy options of whoever wins the presidency," says Brad McMillan, chief investment officer for Commonwealth Financial Network. "That probably rules out any substantial activity on taxes, as well as limiting any actions to control the major tech firms."

The race is, of course, not over -- certainly not as of this writing -- so the winds could change yet again. And if there's no holding back tech, you should probably be investing in it. Investors preferring a diversified, lower-risk approach might want to consider these 15 technology ETFs, which allow you to invest in the sector more broadly, or across narrower industries and even "themes."

Or, if you can handle more risk, you can shoot for more robust returns via these seven small-cap technology companies that Wall Street is wild about right now.

Kyle Woodley was long AMZN and FB as of this writing.

Kyle Woodley
Senior Investing Editor, Kiplinger.com

Kyle is senior investing editor for Kiplinger.com. As a writer and columnist, he also specializes in exchange-traded funds. He joined Kiplinger in September 2017 after spending six years at InvestorPlace.com, where he managed the editorial staff. His work has appeared in several outlets, including U.S. News & World Report and MSN Money, he has appeared as a guest on Fox Business Network and Money Radio, and he has been quoted in MarketWatch, Vice and Univision, among other outlets. He is a proud graduate of The Ohio State University, where he earned a BA in journalism.