By Anna Hirtenstein 

Surging technology stocks boosted the Nasdaq Composite, putting it on track for a fresh record, while shares of pandemic-sensitive companies slid amid fears of disruption to coronavirus vaccine supplies.

The Nasdaq jumped 1.2% in morning trading on Monday, adding to last week's gains that led the index to notch a record at the end of last week. The S&P 500 rose 0.2%, while the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 0.7%.

"You're getting rotation out of the more cyclical stocks. These big tech stocks are perceived as a bit of a haven trade," said Michael Hewson, a chief markets analyst at CMC Markets. "There's also talk of disruptions to vaccine supply, so we'll likely have slower vaccine rollout and tighter restrictions for longer. What we're seeing is a recovery deferred, or delayed."

Pharmaceutical giant Merck scrapped its plans to develop a Covid-19 vaccine after trials yielded disappointing results, pulling a major player out of the coronavirus vaccine race and sending its shares down 0.8%. This came after AstraZeneca warned on Friday that its vaccine deliveries to the European Union would lag projections.

Meanwhile, investors were focused on a big week for corporate earnings, expected to show which corporations are thriving and which are struggling amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

More than one-fifth of the broad S&P 500 index and a third of Dow components are scheduled to release earnings this week. Starbucks, Verizon and Microsoft are slated for Tuesday. Other major tech firms are reporting later in the week, including Apple, Tesla and Facebook on Wednesday.

"The way that management will communicate their outlook will be key for markets," said Sophie Chardon, a cross-asset strategist at Lombard Odier. "Investors will have to weigh the possibility of vaccinations with the reality of new lockdowns" and the impact on each company.

Apple shares climbed 3.5% in morning trading. Data analytics firm Palantir Technologies jumped 7.7% and online marketplace Etsy added 2.3%.

The pandemic and months of stay-at-home orders have split the economy into companies that benefit and those that suffer. The biggest tech companies are largely seen as benefactors, as firms and households increase their use of digital technology as they operate remotely.

The spread of new coronavirus variants has prompted retightened lockdown measures around the world and more uncertainty around the timeline of a return to normal, which may translate to another boost in demand for tech.

Energy stocks and financials were among Monday's underperformers. Chevron shares fells 2.2%, while Goldman Sachs dropped 2.4%, weighing on the Dow.

In corporate news, Kleenex and Huggies maker Kimberly Clark rose 2.8% after it said it expects net sales to rise in 2021, raised its quarterly dividend and unveiled a $5 billion share buyback program.

Real-estate firm Tishman Speyer's special-purpose acquisition company TS Innovation Acquisitions soared 66% after it said it would merge with Latch, a smart lock maker, to take the company public.

GameStop's stock surged 42%. The videogame retailer has been at the center of a fight between bullish day traders communicating on the internet forum Reddit, and short sellers, who bet heavily against the stock. Hedge fund Melvin Capital is among those that lost money from the trade.

Overseas, the pan-continental Stoxx Europe 600 fell 0.7%, which analysts attributed to reports that the U.K. and France were heading toward tighter lockdown measures.

In Asia, most major stock benchmarks rose. The Shanghai Composite Index added 0.5% and Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index climbed 2.4%, buoyed by the rally in tech shares.

South Korea's Kospi Index advanced 2.2%. The index's heavyweight Samsung Electronics rose 3% and chip maker SK Hynix rallied over 5%. Both are slated to report earnings this week.

China's most valuable internet company, Tencent Holdings, jumped nearly 11% to a record high in Hong Kong trading. Tencent portfolio company Kuaishou Technology, a TikTok-like video-recording app, announced a coming initial public offering that may value it at about $60 billion. Amsterdam-listed shares of tech investment group Prosus, one of Tencent's biggest shareholders, rose 5%.

In bond markets, the yield on the benchmark 10-year U.S. Treasury bond edged down to 1.065%, from 1.090% Friday.

Negotiations over President Joe Biden's plan for additional fiscal stimulus will be an area of focus for investors. His proposal for a $1.9 trillion spending package is likely to be a hot topic of discussion among U.S. lawmakers this week.

Sebastian Mackay, a multiasset fund manager at Invesco, said a package could be passed in the next couple of weeks. For markets, "it's about the extent to which the [Federal Reserve] is still in play, while the fiscal stimulus is coming through," he said.

Write to Anna Hirtenstein at


(END) Dow Jones Newswires

January 25, 2021 10:24 ET (15:24 GMT)

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