Stocks open higher on Wall Street, holding near records

NEW YORK — Stocks rose in morning trading as investors remain optimistic that Washington will deliver another round of financial support for the economy as vaccines begin slowly rolling out to the public.

The S&P 500 rose 0.5% today, hovering above its record high. The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 137 points, or 0.5%, to 30,291 as of 8:50 a.m. Central time. The Nasdaq gained 0.7%.

Wall Street has been more hopeful that Congress is getting closer to striking a deal that will give a financial lifeline to people and businesses. Democrats and Republicans have been locked in a partisan fight over the size and scope of any additional package, just as the economic recovery shows signs of stalling amid a surge in virus cases.

The Labor Department, in another worrisome sign, reported that the number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits rose to 885,000 last week, the most since September. Unemployment has been edging higher and retail sales have been hurt as tighter restrictions squeeze people and businesses.

Investors received more encouragement from the Federal Reserve, which helped shore up the markets early in the pandemic. The central bank has again pledged to keep buying bonds until the economy makes substantial progress. Still, the Fed has said it can only do so much to tide over the economy and that more financial support from Washington is critical for a continued recovery.

The gains today were broad and came from nearly every sector in the S&P 500. Technology stocks, which have been pushing the market higher since the pandemic began, were the biggest winners. Apple rose 1% and Intuit rose 1.7%.

Health care and communications companies also made solid gains, while energy companies and banks lagged the broader market.

The yield on the 10-year Treasury remained steady at 0.90% from late Wednesday.

European markets were mostly higher. Germany’s DAX rose 0.8% and France’s CAC 40 gained 0.3%. The FTSE 100 in London fell 0.1%. Asian markets were also mostly higher.