Wall Street inches up with tech shares, though jump in virus cases a concern

(Reuters) – U.S stocks were slightly higher in choppy trading on Wednesday, supported by technology shares as early signs of an economic rebound offset concern about further lockdowns due to a jump in coronavirus cases across the country.

Apple Inc (AAPL.O) and Microsoft Corp (MSFT.O) provided the biggest boost to all three indexes. The technology index .SPLRCT rose 0.9%.

The number of confirmed U.S. cases surpassed 3 million, affecting nearly one of every 100 Americans. California, Hawaii, Idaho, Missouri, Montana, Oklahoma and Texas broke their previous daily record highs for new infections.

Investors have been weighing a string of upbeat economic data including record job additions and a rebound in the service sector in June, against the surge in U.S. coronavirus cases recently, but the S&P 500 is still up about 40% from its March closing low.

There still seems to be a focus on the reopenings rather than the increase in cases, said Peter Cardillo, chief market economist at Spartan Capital Securities in New York.

“But there are warning signs out there… While I don’t expect this market to crash, it’s overbought, and I think investors at this juncture are playing with fire,” he said, noting the rise in safe-haven gold prices.

Markets also appeared to be in a wait-and-watch mode before the beginning of the second-quarter earnings season, which kicks off next week with reports from the big Wall Street banks.

Quarterly earnings for S&P 500 companies are expected to decline nearly 44% year-on-year, the steepest drop since the 2008 financial crisis, according to IBES data from Refinitiv.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average .DJI rose 22.94 points, or 0.09%, to 25,913.12, the S&P 500 .SPX gained 6.11 points, or 0.19%, to 3,151.43 and the Nasdaq Composite .IXIC added 82.88 points, or 0.8%, to 10,426.77.

Biogen Inc (BIIB.O) jumped 4.2% after the company said it submitted the marketing application for its experimental Alzheimer’s disease therapy, aducanumab.

Allstate Corp (ALL.N) shares slipped as the U.S. insurer said it would buy National General Holdings Corp (NGHC.O) for about $4 billion, scaling up its auto insurance business. National General shares surged 65.1%.

Advancing issues outnumbered declining ones on the NYSE by a 1.06-to-1 ratio; on Nasdaq, a 1.04-to-1 ratio favored decliners.

The S&P 500 posted 17 new 52-week highs and no new lows; the Nasdaq Composite recorded 92 new highs and 18 new lows.

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