By Joe Wallace and Karen Langley 

Major U.S. stock indexes hovered in record territory Tuesday after signs of rapid economic recovery propelled them to all-time highs a day earlier.

The S&P 500 edged up 0.1%, putting it on pace for another record close. The Dow Jones Industrial Average slipped 0.1% after notching its 18th closing record of 2021 on Monday. The tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite added 0.4% but remains down about 2.4% from its February record.

Stocks have leapt to start the second quarter on optimism that government spending, vaccinations and the relaxation of restrictions are unleashing a spell of swift economic growth. A series of data have offered evidence that a rebound in activity and hiring is under way a year after the pandemic slammed the brakes on the economy.

"There's a willingness as the economy reopens for people to get out and about," said Keith Gangl, portfolio manager at Gradient Investments. "I think the economy's going to continue to reopen faster than people expected."

Investors are betting that sectors such as banking and mining will benefit from the reopening, and technology stocks have climbed after wobbling at times in the first quarter. The gains Tuesday were broad, with nine of the S&P 500's 11 sectors advancing.

"It looks like the U.S. [economy] has just hit the accelerator," said Brian O'Reilly, head of market strategy for Mediolanum International Funds. The recent rally shows signs of being broad and isn't just concentrated in economically sensitive sectors that suffered most from the pandemic in 2020, he added. "We've certainly seen a moderation in the one-way bet that was being placed until maybe the middle of March."

The International Monetary Fund on Tuesday raised its projections for global economic growth for this year and next, citing stimulus spending by the U.S. and other rich nations and the accelerating rollout of Covid-19 vaccines.

Yet investors say there remains ground for caution, pointing to risks such as the potential for fresh volatility in the U.S. government-bond market as well as a pickup in coronavirus cases. Some worry that a spurt of inflation will prompt the Federal Reserve to raise interest rates before its projections indicate, pulling back some of the monetary stimulus that helped to power markets higher for the past year.

"The main risk is still a reversal in Fed language," Mr. O'Reilly said, adding that he is also keeping a close eye on an increase in cases of Covid-19 in the U.S.

The country reported more than 78,000 new cases for Monday, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. The seven-day average is above the 14-day average, indicating that cases are rising, according to a Wall Street Journal analysis.

In bond markets, the yield on 10-year U.S. Treasury notes dropped to 1.663%, from 1.718% Monday. Yields fall when prices rise.

Among individual stocks, shares of Illumina rose 8.5% after the genetic-sequencing firm said it expected revenue to grow by a quarter or more in the 2021 fiscal year.

Oil prices regained some ground after slumping on concerns that coronavirus outbreaks in India, Europe and other major economies will weigh on demand. Futures for West Texas Intermediate, the main grade of U.S. crude, rose 3.1% to $60.45 a barrel.

Indirect nuclear negotiations between the U.S. and Iran in Vienna starting Tuesday may also weigh on sentiment in oil markets. A diplomatic breakthrough would likely lead to a large increase in Iranian crude exports in the second half of the year, RBC Capital Markets strategist Helima Croft wrote in a note to clients. That could boost global supplies and dent prices.

In overseas markets, European stocks played catch-up with Wall Street after bourses in the region were closed Monday. Shares of basic-resource companies and makers of cars and car parts led broad gains, pushing the Stoxx Europe 600 up 0.7%.

In Asian markets, Japan's Nikkei 225 fell 1.3%, and the Shanghai Composite Index ended the day relatively flat.

Write to Joe Wallace at and Karen Langley at


(END) Dow Jones Newswires

April 06, 2021 11:52 ET (15:52 GMT)

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