NEW YORK (Reuters) — Wall Street's three major indexes were advancing slightly after Wednesday's choppy morning session as investors appeared to be taking a wait-and-see approach while Congress began impeachment hearings.
Intel was the S&P's biggest percentage gainer, up more than 7%, after the chipmaker announced the replacement of its CEO Bob Swan with VMware CEO Pat Gelsinger next month.
The S&P added to gains later in the afternoon right after the Federal Reserve released its "Beige Book" report. It, however, showed U.S. economic activity increasing modestly in recent weeks as employment dropped in a growing number of Fed districts due to a surge in coronavirus infections.
Wall Street's main indexes had hit record highs last week on expectations for a hefty COVID-19 relief package even as an attack on Capitol Hill ramped up political uncertainty.
As U.S. House of Representatives gathered to consider a second impeachment for President Donald Trump after the Capitol invasion by his supporters which left five dead, some investors worried whether impeachment could delay stimulus or other parts of in-coming President Joe Biden's agenda.
"The headlines coming in are causing some near term jitters but it looks like investors are looking past that to the rest of the year," said Shawn Cruz, senior market strategist at TD Ameritrade in Jersey City, New Jersey.
While defensive sectors such as utilities and real estate were leading percentage gains among the 11 major S&P sectors, the biggest losers were the more economically sensitive cyclical sectors such as materials and industrials.
"Investors are in wait-and-see mode for now ... if you're moving to the sidelines you probably might want to be moving out of cyclicals," said Cruz.
By 2:29 p.m. ET, the Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 72.19 points, or 0.23%, to 31,140.88, the S&P 500 gained 18.68 points, or 0.49%, to 3,819.87 and the Nasdaq Composite added 93.67 points, or 0.72%, to 13,166.11.
Eight of the 11 major S&P sectors were gaining ground. After boasting a record closing high in the previous day's session, the Russell 2000 pulled back slightly and gains in the S&P growth index outperformed the value index.
David Spika, president of GuideStone Capital Management in Dallas, Texas cited concerns about extremely high valuations and slower than expected vaccine rollouts.
"The expectation is that we'll have a significant increase in earnings and economic growth in 2021, but both are really dependent the vaccine," he said.
Earnings reports from big U.S. banks including JPMorgan and Citigroup will mark the unofficial start to the fourth-quarter earnings season on Friday.
Exxon Mobil rose 1.7% after J.P. Morgan upgraded the stock to "overweight," saying cuts in capital spending had put the oil major on track for a stronger performance.
Regeneron Pharmaceuticals climbed 1.3% as the U.S. government said it would buy 1.25 million additional doses of its COVID-19 antibody cocktail for about $2.63 billion.
Shares of VMware fell 7.6% after the Intel news.
Advancing issues outnumbered declining ones on the NYSE by a 1.36-to-1 ratio; on Nasdaq, a 1.01-to-1 ratio favored decliners.
The S&P 500 posted 43 new 52-week highs and no new lows; the Nasdaq Composite recorded 239 new highs and three new lows.
(Additional reporting by Medha Singh in Bengaluru; Editing by Marguerita Choy)
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