Stock Market Today: S&P 500, Nasdaq Hit Record Highs on Pfizer Vaccine Approval

The Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine became the first to earn full FDA approval Monday, igniting a broad rally in stocks.

Vial of Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine
(Image credit: Getty Images)

The bulls came out Monday as the nation's fight against COVID-19 took a significant step.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration today gave its full approval to the COVID-19 vaccine manufactured by Pfizer (PFE (opens in new tab), +2.5%) and Germany's BioNTech (BNTX (opens in new tab), +9.6%), making it the first shot to receive the designation. More than 200 million doses of the drug, which will now be marketed as Comirnaty, have already been administered under the FDA's emergency-use authorization.

"Considering the recent spike in cases and some of the disappointing economic data, this is another step in the right direction," says Ryan Detrick, chief market strategist for LPL Financial, "and it helps give confidence to those who might still be holding out on getting the vaccine."

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"To the extent that the general public becomes more comfortable living with the virus – either because of increased vaccinations or natural immunity from recovered infections – the economy is likely to continue on its upward trajectory," says Chris Zaccarelli, chief investment officer for Independent Advisor Alliance. "The economic recovery is what is driving corporate earnings and the stock market to all-time highs, and we expect that to continue through 2021 and into 2022."

The energy sector (+3.8%) led the way, as U.S. crude oil futures snapped a seven-day losing streak with a 5.6% jump to $65.64 per barrel.

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The Nasdaq Composite soared 1.6% higher to a record close of 14,942, putting it within reach of the nice, round 15,000 level. The S&P 500 also notched a record high, gaining 0.9% to 4,479. And the Dow Jones Industrial Average closed up 0.6% to 35,335.

Other news in the stock market today:

  • The small-cap Russell 2000 advanced 1.9% to 2,208.
  • Robinhood (HOOD (opens in new tab), +6.2%) was a notable mover on Wall Street today after a number of analysts weighed in on the investing platform. Among them was Mizuho Securities analyst Dan Dolev, who initiated coverage with a Buy rating and a $68 price target. "With its 22.5 million active users and fetching 50% of all new retail U.S. accounts, we view Robinhood not as a meme stock phenomenon, but as a singularity that captures Generation Z's zeitgeist," Dolev says.
  • Shares of Tesla (TSLA (opens in new tab), +3.8%) also moved higher on the back of some analyst attention. In the wake of TSLA's artificial intelligence (AI) day last week, Deutsche Bank analyst Emmanuel Rosner reiterated his Buy rating on the electric vehicle (EV) maker. "We came away with greater appreciation for Tesla’s efforts in AI," Rosner says. "Tesla outlined a very ambitious effort to develop a high performance neural network with very scalable underlying compute and accurate+fast data labeling." Rosner believes this platform "could be sold 'as a service' to other machine learning (ML) use cases."
  • Gold futures jumped 1.3% to settle at $1,806.30 an ounce as the U.S. dollar cooled.
  • The CBOE Volatility Index (VIX) declined 7.9% to 17.09.
  • Earlier this morning, Bitcoin prices eclipsed $50,000 for the first time since May. They retreated a bit to $49,297.32 by the afternoon, up 1.3% from Friday. (Bitcoin trades 24 hours a day; prices reported here are as of 4 p.m. each trading day.)

stock chart for 082321

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Vaccine Winners and Losers

As energy demonstrated, some sectors are more warmly greeting Monday's FDA decision than others.

Chris Zaccarelli, chief investment officer for Independent Advisor Alliance, notes that defensive sectors such as utilities (-1.3%) and consumer staples (-0.3%) are likely to underperform if the market's reopening trade continues; on Monday, at least, that was the case.

So what looks appealing? Consumer discretionary stocks (and retail companies in particular) are "likely to benefit from this announcement because increased consumer confidence as a result of additional vaccinations should lead to higher sales at those companies," he says. Indeed, discretionaries (+1.3%) were one of the session's best sectors.

Looking outside any one particular area of the market, our 21 best stocks to buy for the rest of 2021 were largely selected for their ability to benefit from continued rejuvenation in the U.S. economy. That's based on ongoing progress against the virus, sure – but also on spending elsewhere in the economy, be it a Washington plan for infrastructure, or corporate America upgrading its technological tools.

Kyle Woodley was long TSLA 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.