Dow extends its rebound, jumping 500 points as investors reassess omicron risk

Stocks jumped for a second day, continuing their rebound from a recent rough patch, as investors grew less fearful of the potential economic impact from the new omicron coronavirus variant.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 461 points, or 1.3%. The S&P 500 added 1.9% and the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite gained 2.6%.

“The market certainly — and this morning is another indication — is kind of looking past the [omicron] variant as something that’s going to be slowing down economic activity, but we’re still not completely out of the pandemic,” David Solomon, Goldman Sachs chairman and CEO, told CNBC’s “Squawk Box” Tuesday morning.

Chipmaker stocks were the early winners, with Intel leaping 6% and NVIDIA up 2%, following news that Intel is planning to take its self-driving car unit, Mobileye, public in mid-2022.

British drugmaker GlaxoSmithKline said new data shows its monoclonal antibodies treatment is effective in treating the omicron variant. Its shares rose slightly.

Casino stocks also were hot, as Las Vegas Sands rose 2%, while cruise lines also gained on the enthusiasm that omicron may pose less of a threat than feared. Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings jumped about 4%.

Apple shares rose 2% following a call from Morgan Stanley, which maintained its outperform rating on the stock but heightened its price target on it to $200, citing the company’s commitment to developing augmented and virtual reality technology.

Elsewhere Tesla shares gained more than 3% despite news that the company had to replace cameras in three of its models. UBS said the electric carmaker will be the dominant force in the industry and raised its price target.

The overnight session followed a comeback on Wall Street that saw the blue-chip Dow gain nearly 650 points. The S&P 500 jumped 1.1% on Monday with all 11 sectors registering gains. The Nasdaq Composite reversed higher to end the day up 0.9%. The rally was led by travel-related stocks such as airlines and cruise line operators.

“Easing Omicron fears are making way for investors to position for a more hawkish Fed,” said Fiona Cincotta, senior financial market analyst at City Index. “The markets are dialing back on the potential economic damage that Omicron could cause as initial reports suggest that the new COVID variant is less severe.”

Investors are betting that the new Covid-19 strain may cause milder illness than feared. White House Chief Medical Advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci said Sunday that the initial data on the variant is “encouraging,” though he cautioned that more information was needed to fully understand it.

Meanwhile, the market is also weighing the likelihood that the Federal Reserve would begin to remove its massive pandemic easing policies and hike rates sooner than expected.

Comments by Fed officials suggest the central bank is likely to decide to double the pace of its taper to $30 billion a month at its December meeting next week. Initial discussions could also begin as soon as the December meeting about when to raise interest rates and by how much next year.

“After the markets roller coaster ride last week traders are likely at a bit of a crossroads,” said Chris Larkin, managing director of trading at E-Trade Financial. “On one hand Omicron may be less of a threat, but on the other the Fed could potentially accelerate tightening, so we could see some shifts in the market.”

Market focus will shift to the new inflation data later this week. The consumer price index, which is expected to be even hotter than the prior month, could become the catalyst for the Fed to deliver faster tightening of its policies.

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