The S&P 500 and Nasdaq ticked up to highs neither has seen in months as investors continue banking on the potential pandemic recovery and signs of additional economic stimulus, plus more in today’s Closing Bell on Money & Markets.

The Top Story

The S&P 500 hit its highest intraday level in two months while the Nasdaq — the lone major U.S. index in positive territory year to date — hit its highest level in three months, boosted by a surge in shares of Facebook Inc. (Nasdaq: FB) and Inc. (Nasdaq: AMZN). Both Amazon and Facebook are trading at all-time highs today.

The S&P 500, meanwhile, is inching closer and closer to break-even for the year, but closing at 2,971 points, it is still down about 12.5% from its Feb. 19 record-high close of 3,393. The S&P’s gains were broad-based, with tech and communications services providing the biggest boost to the index, which is now above its 100-day moving average.

“If we can break through the 3,000 level with some conviction, that’s going to be a positive sign, and it’s probably going to draw more money off the sidelines,” said Robert Pavlik, senior portfolio manager at Slatestone Wealth LLC in New York.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average followed suit, rising 369 points, or 1.5%.

The rally came after a down day on Wall Street on Tuesday following Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell’s testimony before Congress. The pair reassured investors that policymakers were ready to fire more monetary stimulus at ailing sectors.

Massive stimulus and the easing of coronavirus-related lockdowns are fueling hopes of an economic recovery and pushing the three major U.S. indexes upward about 35% from their March lows.

“You have the S&P 500, Nasdaq and small caps all rallying — you have a widening breadth of strength that is giving investors encouragement,” said Sam Stovall, chief investment strategist at CFRA Research.

“In general, Wall Street is saying ‘I factored in a worst-case scenario and now it appears as if things are not as bad as they might be.'”

Stock Market Update: Closing Bell*

S&P 500: 2,971.61 (+1.67%)
DOW: 24,575.90 (+1.52%)
NASDAQ: 9,375.78 (+2.08%)
GOLD: $1,751.30 (+0.33%)
BITCOIN: $9,516.93 (-1.21%)
U.S. 10-YEAR YIELD: 0.688% (-0.023%)

*- as of 4:15 p.m.

A Big Win 

This morning we told you to be on the lookout for Johnson & Johnson (NYSE: JNJ) after it announced it would no longer sell baby powder in the U.S. or Canada. The company is facing a number of lawsuits claiming its powder causes cancer. Johnson & Johnson shares fell 0.9%.

We also told you to watch out for Target Corp. (NYSE: TGT) after it reported stronger-than-expected first quarter earnings, beating analyst expectations by $0.21 a share. It also said its COVID-related costs had risen by $500, and shares of Target were down 3.3%.

Golden Nuggets

Gold rose amid extensive stimulus efforts and uncertainty over a coronavirus vaccine, and spot gold was up about 0.19% to $1,748.10 in the afternoon.

“In the midst of lesser need for safe-haven assets like gold, the fact that gold continued to slowly rise speaks volumes about its underlying strength based on the idea of liquidity injection across the board from central banks and economies,” said David Meger, director of metals trading at High Ridge Futures.

“On a slightly offsetting note” was the gain in equities on optimism over the reopening of economies and pent-up consumer demand, while developments surrounding Moderna Inc’s vaccine tests were a “wild card” for markets, Meger added, according to Reuters.

Among other precious metals, silver was up 1.18% to $17.55, while platinum rose 3.01% to $856 and palladium was up 2.59% to $2,022.

Cannabis Corner

Portland, Maine, the state’s largest city, is opting into its recreational marijuana industry after an 8-1 vote to approve 20 retail licenses following more than a year of deliberations. About 40 communities in Maine have opted into the state’s adult-use recreational marijuana market.

Following a two-month shutdown due to the coronavirus outbreak, Massachusetts will reopen its recreational cannabis stores on May 25. Sales will be limited to curbside pickup and online and telephone orders only. Gov. Charlie Baker ordered all nonessential businesses closed, including cannabis retailers, on March 24, and his order was upheld in state court. Several other states have deemed marijuana businesses as essential.

Fed Minutes Reveal Central Bankers’ Continued Coronavirus Worries

The Fed minutes released today show officials are worried about long-lasting impacts from the pandemic, including another wave of infections, which would place tremendous burdens on low-income households.

The meeting, which ended on April 29, resulted in the Fed keeping interest rates steady at near zero in a range of 0% to 0.25%.

“Participants commented that, in addition to weighing heavily on economic activity in the near term, the economic effects of the pandemic created an extraordinary amount of uncertainty and considerable risks to economic activity in the medium term,” the Fed minutes read.

The biggest concern is another surge in infections later this year forcing another shutdown.

“In this scenario, a second wave of the coronavirus outbreak, with another round of strict restrictions on social interactions and business operations, was assumed to begin around year-end, inducing a decrease in real GDP, a jump in the unemployment rate, and renewed downward pressure on inflation next year,” the minutes read.

Today’s Big Winners

S&P 500: MGM Resorts International (NYSE: MGM) +8.9%

Nasdaq: Analog Devices Inc. (Nasdaq: ADI) +7.7%

Dow: American Express Co. (NYSE: AXP) +4%

Today’s Big Losers

S&P 500: Becton Dickinson and Co. (NYSE: BDX) -7.7%

Nasdaq: Sirius XM Holdings Inc. (Nasdaq: SIRI) -4%

Dow: Merck & Co Inc. (NYSE: MRK) -0.9%

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