Wall Street soars as investors price in gridlock in Washington

(Reuters) – Wall Street’s main indexes surged on Wednesday as investors bet that an excruciatingly close race for the White House could end with a gridlock in Congress that would reduce the chance of major policy changes.

Both President Donald Trump and Democratic nominee Joe Biden still have possible paths to reach the 270 Electoral College votes needed to win as states keep counting mail-in ballots.

The S&P healthcare index .SPXHC jumped 5.6% to a record high, while the information technology sector .SPLRCT rose 4.3%, as investors said chances faded for Democrats to score a big win in the U.S. Senate, lowering bets of higher antitrust scrutiny and capital gains taxes.

“What’s emerging for me is that not much is going to change as a result of this election, even if Biden wins,” said Peter Kraus, a former Goldman Sachs executive who founded asset management firm Aperture Investments in 2018.

“The Senate is unlikely to flip. Stimulus bills, investments in infrastructure, significant fiscal spending and tax changes look in a rear view mirror.”

Investors have said they favor a definitive, swift resolution to the election as that would clear the way for a deal on a stimulus package to help the damaged domestic economy. Analysts have also said the market will be comfortable with a clear Trump victory.

Meanwhile, Biden was back as clear favorite to win the election in online betting markets, according to data from three aggregators, after he overtook Trump in the state of Wisconsin.

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“A lot of investors think (the election) will be wrapped up in a couple of days,” said Arian Vojdani, investment strategist at MV Financial in Bethesda, Maryland.

“(But) increased uncertainties such as potential court cases around the election could throw a wrench in the current market optimism.”

The NYSE FANG+TM Index .NYFANG, which includes the core FAANG stocks, jumped 4.7%.

Shares of defense contractors Northrop Grumman NOC.N, Lockheed Martin LMT.N and Raytheon RTX.N rose between 1% and 5.1% on receding chances of a cut in the defense budget.

Big Pharma Pfizer PFE.N, Merck & Co MRK.N and Johnson & Johnson JNJ.N also jumped as the potential split Congress was likely to shield the industry from sweeping reform.

(GRAPHIC: Trump and the stock market – )

FILE PHOTO: The New York Stock Exchange is pictured in the Manhattan borough of New York City, New York, U.S., October 28, 2020. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri

At 12:55 p.m. ET, the Dow Jones Industrial Average .DJI was up 714.75 points, or 2.60%, at 28,194.78, the S&P 500 .SPX was up 107.91 points, or 3.20%, at 3,477.07 and the Nasdaq Composite .IXIC was up 481.81 points, or 4.32%, at 11,642.38.

Materials .SPLRCM was the only major S&P index in the red.

The CBOE volatility index .VIX, a gauge for short-term volatility, slipped to a two-week low after spiking to a four-month high in the run-up to the election.

Still, the prospect of political uncertainty sent investors to U.S. Treasuries, sparking the biggest one-day drop in 10- and 30-year bond yields since June. Shares of U.S. banks .SPXBK, which typically track Treasury yields, slipped 2.4%. [US/]

Advancing issues outnumbered decliners 2.06-to-1 on the NYSE and 1.60-to-1 on the Nasdaq. The S&P index recorded 46 new 52-week highs and no new low, while the Nasdaq recorded 93 new highs and 16 new lows.

(GRAPHIC: S&P 500 in first terms: Trump vs Obama – )

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