Wall Street clawed back the last of the historic, frenzied losses unleashed by the new coronavirus, as the S&P 500 closed at an all-time high Tuesday.
The day’s move was a relatively mild one, nudging the index up 7.79 points, or 0.2 percent, to 3,389.78. That eclipses the S&P 500′s previous record closing high of 3,386.15, which was set Feb. 19, before the pandemic shut down businesses around the world and knocked economies into their worst recessions in decades.
The S&P 500′s milestone caps a furious, 51.5 percent rally that began in late March. The index, which is the benchmark for many stock funds at the heart of 401(k) plans, is now up nearly 5 percent for the year.
The stock market’s sprint back to an all-time high also means that the gut-wrenching, nearly 34 percent plunge for the S&P 500 from Feb. 19 through March 23 was the quickest bear market on record, clocking in at just one month. By comparison, it’s taken the average bear market 19.6 months to bottom out, according to S&P Dow Jones Indices.
Tremendous amounts of aid from the Federal Reserve and Congress helped launch the rally, which built higher on signs of budding growth in the economy. More recently, blowout corporate profit reports from technology giants such as Apple and Microsoft and earnings from harder-hit industries that weren’t as bad as expected have helped boost stock prices.
The S&P 500 spent the past few days within striking distance of a new high, but fell short of the milestone until finally breaking through on Tuesday.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 66.84 points, or 0.2 percent, to 27,778.07. It remains 6 percent below its record set in February. The Nasdaq composite had already returned to a record, thanks to huge gains for the big tech stocks that dominate it. It hit a new one Tuesday, climbing 81.12 points, or 0.7 percent, to 11,210.84.
The lightning recovery is even more noteworthy considering how much the economy is still struggling and how uncertain the path ahead remains. Millions of Americans are continuing to get unemployment benefits, and businesses across the country are still shutting their doors. COVID-19 continues to spread throughout the world, with more than 5.4 million known cases and 170,000 deaths in the United States alone.