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S&P 500 flat as vaccine bets offset surging coronavirus cases; Boeing rises

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(Reuters) - The S&P 500 was little changed on Wednesday as investors weighed near-term economic pain from surging coronavirus cases against growing optimism that a working vaccine was near, while the Dow was boosted by a rise in shares of Boeing.

The planemaker BA.N advanced 3.2% after getting U.S. approval to fly its 737 MAX jet again after a 20-month grounding following two fatal crashes.

The news also lifted shares of airlines. American Airlines AAL.O gained 3.6% and Southwest Airlines LUV.N added 2.1% as the carriers laid out plans to fly the aircraft again.

Pfizer Inc PFE.N said it would apply for emergency U.S. authorization of its COVID-19 vaccine within days and disclosed final results from a late-stage trial that showed it was 95% effective. The drugmaker's shares rose 3%.

The announcement comes after Moderna Inc MRNA.O on Monday released preliminary data for its COVID-19 vaccine, showing similar effectiveness.

Meanwhile, the number of reported global daily deaths from the coronavirus stood at its highest ever on Tuesday, as the virus’s global epicenter the United States entered winter.

"The current market narrative seems to encompass a tug-of-war between good news on the vaccine front, juxtaposed against increasing new cases of COVID," said Art Hogan, chief market strategist at National Securities in New York. At 09:58 a.m. ET, the Dow Jones Industrial Average .DJI rose 69.04 points, or 0.23%, to 29,852.39, the S&P 500 .SPX fell 1.77 points or 0.05% to 3,607.76. The Nasdaq composite .IXIC lost 41.47 points, or 0.35% to 11,857.87.

Target Corp TGT.N rose 2.3% after the big-box retailer blew past expectations for quarterly profit and sales, as its quick delivery services boosted online shopping.

Discount store operator TJX Companies Inc TJX.N rose about 3% after topping quarterly sales estimates.

“With earnings announcements coming in better than expected from the retail space and the positive news on Boeing, it should drive interest in cyclicals,” said Robert Pavlik, senior portfolio manager at Dakota Wealth, New York.

S&P sectors sensitive to economic growth, such as financials .SPSY, industrials .SPLRCI, materials .SPLRCM and energy .SPNY, led the gainers.

The benchmark S&P 500 .SPX and the blue-chip Dow .DJI retreated from all-time highs on Tuesday as glum U.S. retail sales data, as well as the specter of fresh restrictions dampened demand for risky assets.

Lowe's Cos Inc LOW.N tumbled 5% as the home improvement chain forecast holiday-quarter earnings largely below analysts' estimates.

Advancing issues outnumbered decliners on the NYSE by a 1.9-to-1 ratio and by a 1.7-to-1 ratio on the Nasdaq.

The S&P 500 posted 12 new 52-week highs and no new low, while the Nasdaq Composite recorded 130 new highs and five new lows.

Reporting by Shivani Kumaresan, Sruthi Shankar, Medha Singh, Shriya Ramakrishnan in Bengaluru; Editing by Sriraj Kalluvila

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