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Wall Street Closing Report: Stocks surge in post-election rally even as winner remains unclear, S&P 500 jumps 2%

 

Fred Imbert, Yun Li


U.S. stocks climbed on Wednesday, led by tech shares, even as the results of the presidential contest so far failed to yield a clear winner.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average jumped 500 points, or 1.8%. The S&P 500 traded 2.8% higher. The tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite popped 3.9% as investors crowded back into the trade that’s been working for most of this tumultuous year.

“I think the big news for the markets right now at least as it looks preliminary is that there’s not going to be a blue wave, which is generally supportive for markets,” said Mike Lewis, managing director of U.S. equity cash trading at Barclays, on CNBC’s “Squawk Box.” “I think that the outlook going forward for markets is this is going to be more about policy and the Fed than it’s going to be about politics, which is a good thing for markets.”

President Donald Trump is projected to win the presidential vote in Florida, Indiana, Alabama, North Dakota and Kentucky along with South Dakota, Arkansas and Ohio, NBC News said. Democratic nominee Joe Biden is projected to win Maine, Vermont, Delaware, Maryland and Massachusetts as well as Colorado, New York and Virginia, according to NBC News.

Biden appeared to be unable to take North Carolina, with Trump holding a lead in that state, according to NBC News. However, Biden was leading in Arizona and Michigan, according to NBC News, but it was too early to call the states.

NBC News projected that Biden is the apparent winner in Wisconsin, a state Trump won in 2016. Trump’s campaign manager said Trump plans to request a formal recount in Wisconsin.

The campaigns for both candidates claimed they would win the race even though a half-dozen battleground states were still not called, including Arizona, Nevada, Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania, North Carolina and Georgia.

“I want to share with all of you that Joe Biden is on track to win this election and he will be the next president of the United States,” Biden campaign manager Jen O’Malley Dillon said Wednesday.

Trump told supporters in the White House shortly before 2:30 a.m. that he was “winning everything” and he “did win this election.”

“We were getting ready for a big celebration. We were winning everything, and all of a sudden it was just called off,” Trump said. “We’ll be going to the U.S. Supreme Court, we want all voting to stop.”

Shares of major tech-related companies jumped with Amazon, Apple and Microsoft all up at least 4%. Facebook popped 8%, while Google-parent Alphabet jumped more than 6%.

Wall Street traders and investors attributed the move in tech to a number of factors, including the group’s consistently solid returns and safety appeal in times of uncertainty. Additionally, some viewed the potential for Republicans to hold onto the Senate as a positive for the group since higher capital gains taxes from a Democrat congress could have weighed on the high-growth sector.

“It appears investors may be satisfied with at least half a loaf (Republican Senate) and no tax increase, knowing they have a ‘Fed put’ if fiscal assistance is slower in coming,” Stifel Head of Institutional Equity Strategy Barry Bannister said in a note Wednesday. “This favors Growth stocks over Value near-term.”

Bannister raised his S&P 500 target price to 3,800 from 3,100 by spring 2021, which would represent a more than 10% gain from here.

Contested election?

Traders also grappled with the possibility of a contested election result, which Wall Street strategists say could have major consequences for the stock market. Among other things, analysts warn that a delayed result would hamper the ability of Washington to pass additional fiscal stimulus amid a jump in Covid-19 cases.

“News of a contested election could cause a sharp drop in stocks in the very short term, but we do not see it as a bearish gamechanger,” Tom Essaye, founder of the Sevens Report, said in a note.

Wall Street was coming off a strong two-day rally. The Dow jumped more than 500 points on Tuesday following a 400-point advance in the previous session. The S&P 500 gained about 3% in that two-day period, rebounding from sharp losses last week.

Senate battle

Traders were also eyeing the battle for the Senate and its implications for future fiscal policies. It was unclear whether the Democrats would be able to win back the Senate. Republicans possibly gained a key win with Republican Sen. Joni Ernst projected to win the Iowa Senate race.

Meanwhile, Sara Gideon, a Democrat who challenged Maine Sen. Susan Collins, conceded on Wednesday afternoon. NBC has not yet called the race.

Going into the election, traders feared a Democrat win in the Senate and a Biden presidency could bring higher tax rates, impacting technology shares especially. At the same time, some investors were hopeful that a so-called blue wave could yield a bigger stimulus to battle the effects of the coronavirus, boosting stocks linked to the broader economy.

One year out from a presidential election, the S&P 500 averaged a return of more than 8%, according to data from Baird dating back to 1960.

“When this is all said and done, I still believe equities will move higher regardless of who wins the Oval Office,” said Ryan Nauman, market strategist at Informa Financial intelligence, noting the coronavirus pandemic and U.S. monetary policy will be bigger market drivers over the long haul.

—CNBC’s Pippa Stevens contributed to this report.

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