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Market Advances Toward Record as Tech Stocks Rebound

Stocks pushed close to new highs on Wednesday, even as Americans braced for the next phase of the pandemic in the United States. The market rally came as coronavirus cases and hospitalizations in the United States soared to new highs, straining medical facilities. As winter approaches and cooler weather drives people indoors, experts expect the totals to continue to climb. Even so, investors stuck with stocks despite the rising virus risks, buying up shares of giant technology companies and stay-at-home companies — both well-positioned to weather another economic slowdown. Smaller companies and those in industries tied to shorter-term economic developments lagged. The trading dynamic suggested significant underlying support for share prices, despite uncertainties related to the virus. “Right now, the market can put a bullish interpretation on any piece of news,” said Steve Sosnick, chief strategist at Interactive Brokers in Greenwich, Conn. The S&P 500 rose 0.8 percent, putting the benchmark index less than a quarter of a percentage point below its closing high of 3,580.84 set Sept. 2. The tech-heavy Nasdaq composite index rose 2 percent. Shares of major tech companies helped drive the gains. Apple rose 3 percent, Microsoft was up 2.6 percent and Amazon rose 3.4 percent. Shares of such companies, with dominant positions in parts of the economy that are largely immune to the impact of the pandemic, have emerged as popular places for investors to put their cash amid the disruptions this year. But smaller tech firms that stand to benefit from pandemic-induced lockdowns — so-called stay-at-home stocks — also outperformed on Wednesday. Etsy was the best-performing stock in the S&P 500, rising more 9 percent. Zoom Video rose nearly 10 percent. Shopify jumped almost 7 percent. Pharmaceutical stocks were also big gainers on Wednesday, with the Swiss firm Roche and the French company Sanofi both trading higher. Shares in Pfizer, which on Monday announced strong results for its potential coronavirus vaccine, were down slightly for the day but remain up by nearly 6 percent this week. But investors largely abandoned companies reliant on a near-term economic improvement, suggesting they may see more headwinds over the coming months. Delta Air Lines and United Airlines fell 5.5 percent and 3.9 percent. American Express, whose affluent customers have drastically reduced business and leisure travel amid the pandemic, fell 4.2 percent. The shopping center owner Simon Property Group fell 6.9 percent, and the chain restaurant owner Darden dropped 5.5 percent. Many of those companies, however, were merely giving back some of the outsize gains logged since Monday, when Pfizer announced that its potential coronavirus vaccine was more than 90 percent effective according to early data. Such a high efficacy rate was much better than many had expected, raising the prospect of a faster transition to economic normalcy. On Wednesday, Goldman Sachs analysts raised their year-end target for stocks this year and next. They now expect that the S&P 500 will rise another 3.6 percent to end 2020 at 3,700. Next year, they expect the blue-chip index to gain a further 16 percent to finish at 4,300. “The much-awaited results from Pfizer that its Covid-19 vaccine has an efficacy rate greater than 90 percent is a positive event that will allow society to gradually normalize during 2021,” Goldman analysts wrote. The rally in oil prices, which are up 16 percent since Nov. 1, cooled somewhat on Wednesday. West Texas Intermediate climbed 0.2 percent to close at $41.45. Bond markets in the United States were closed Wednesday for Veterans Day.

Jason Kilar, the recently installed chief executive of WarnerMedia, denied on Wednesday that AT&T, Warner’s parent, was interested in selling CNN. “No, is the short answer,” he said in a virtual forum with employees. “I think we are just getting started.” The forum was held a day after Warner executed job cuts affecting 5 to 7 percent of its 25,000 employees. (The reductions had been announced in August.) Mr. Kilar, who became chief executive in May with a directive to realign WarnerMedia’s disparate divisions around the HBO Max streaming service, discussed the cuts in a Tuesday staff email that he called “painful to write.” “We have arrived at a number of difficult decisions that are resulting in a smaller WarnerMedia team,” he wrote. “This is a function of removing layers and the impact of consolidating previously separate organizations.” Mr. Kilar declined to say during the forum which divisions endured the brunt of the layoffs. “Please know, these reductions are not in any way a reflection of the quality of the team members impacted, nor their work,” he wrote in his email. “It is simply a function of the changes I believe we must make in order to best serve customers.” Mr. Kilar, 49, reiterated his commitment to HBO Max, which he said added 2.1 million subscribers in the past quarter — bringing the total to 38 million since the service’s start in May. He also said he was confident the company would ultimately reach deals with Roku and Amazon Fire to make HBO Max available on their devices, but did not give a timetable. Mr. Kilar, the founding chief executive of Hulu, has long prescribed that Hollywood needs to place consumers first, giving them more control over how and where they consume their media. WarnerMedia will be the place where he can turn his theories into action. Read from source….