Stock Market Today: Dow Claws Out Gains as U.K. Begins Vaccine Rollout

The weight of COVID case loads and hospitalizations on market sentiment were outweighed Tuesday by vaccine rollouts and slow progress toward coronavirus stimulus.

Doctor prepping a vaccination
(Image credit: Getty Images)

The fight against COVID-19 reached a new milestone on Tuesday, helping the markets finish with slight gains and pushing a few indices to new highs.

The United Kingdom began administering the first doses of a coronavirus vaccine from Pfizer (PFE (opens in new tab), +3.2%) and BioNTech (BNTX (opens in new tab), +1.9%) that received emergency-use authorization there last week (a similar U.S. clearance is expected in days).

"Relative to its peers in the Pharmaceuticals and Biotechnology Industry group, PFE is rapidly picking up strength making it one of the leading stocks in that industry group as well as in the HealthCare sector," says Julius de Kempenaer, senior analyst at StockCharts.com.

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That, as well as minor progress in Congress, where a bipartisan group of politicians are trying to cobble together a $900 billion-plus compromise rescue bill, provided just enough optimism to overcome still-dire coronavirus numbers in the U.S. The seven-day daily average of new COVID cases eclipsed 200,000 for the first time, a record 102,140 people were hospitalized, and daily deaths of 2,237 are near their high-water mark of 2,241 set back in April.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average managed to put up modest gains of 0.4% to 30,173, helped by Johnson & Johnson (JNJ (opens in new tab), +1.7%) and Dow Inc. (DOW (opens in new tab), +2.5%), among others.

Other action in the stock market today:

  • The S&P 500 improved 0.3% to a record 3,702.
  • The Nasdaq Composite also closed up, by 0.5% to a record 12,582.
  • The small-cap Russell 2000 jumped 1.4% to set a new high of 1,917.
  • Gold futures settled at $1,874.90 per ounce, a 0.5% improvement.
  • U.S. crude oil futures slid 0.4% to finish at $45.60 per barrel.

How Much Gas Does the Market Have Left?

While most of the major indices are still at or just below all-time highs, momentum is slowing.

"We believe the combination of extreme bullishness, broad acceptance of the economic recovery rotation, and a historic ramp in our favored areas have us looking for a near-term pause in the upside," says Canaccord Genuity equity strategist Tony Dwyer, who does see a "sustainable leg higher" in 2021 on the back of vaccine distributions and stimulus measures.

Investors looking to duck that kind of market wobbliness in the short term could do well with these 12 low-volatility stocks.

But even if a pause comes to pass, 2020 still has a few potential fireworks lined up for those willing to go more aggressively. This week, a few of the market's most anticipated initial public offerings (IPOs) are scheduled to hit the public exchanges, including names like DoorDash, C3.ai and AirBnb.

If you're curious at all about making a big splash with one of these emerging names, check out our primer on these and other exciting IPOs expected to hit the markets over the next few months.

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.