Before The Bell - Stocks started the first week of March on a strong up note, with sizable gains posted in Asia, Europe, and the United States.    
Investor sentiment was bolstered by a number of recent positive developments. On the coronavirus front, the FDA approved emergency use of Johnson & Johnson’s (JNJ) vaccine. It was then signed off by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, thereby paving the way for a rollout across the U.S. Johnson & Johnson has already begun shipping the nearly four million doses it has on hand, and it expects to have 20 million doses available by the end of the month. 

The markets were also encouraged by recent comments from central banks across the globe that indicated a continuation of accommodative monetary policies. Also on the economic front, the Institute for Supply Management announced that its U.S. Manufacturing Index registered a reading of 60.8% for February, coming in ahead of expectations and marking the highest rate of expansion over the past 12 months. 

Meanwhile, the $1.9 trillion COVID relief bill that was passed by the House of Representatives will now move on to the Senate for consideration. The package, named the American Rescue Plan, includes new $1,400 stimulus checks for households, among other relief measures for individuals and state and local governments.  

Altogether, the Dow Jones industrial Average advanced 603 points yesterday, or 2%, the S&P 500 pushed 90 points higher (2.4%), and the tech-heavy NASDAQ led the pack, rising 396 points for a 3% gain. All the major market sectors were up, led by technology (+3.2%), financials (+3.1%) and energy shares (+2.6%).  Rising issues outnumbered decliners by a four-to-one margin on the New York Stock exchange. Elsewhere oil prices closed down, with West Texas Intermediate slipping 2.1%, to around $60.25 a barrel.  However, the commodity is still up 27% for the year to date

As we look to the new day, stocks in Asia-Pacific had a down session, but the European bourses are adding to yesterday’s gains. Meanwhile, U.S. stock futures are suggesting the major indexes will open slightly lower. Looking further ahead, this week we will be getting motor vehicle sales figures for February. On Wednesday, the Institute for Supply Management announces its services index reading for last month, while Friday brings February’s jobs report.  – Mario Ferro

At the time of this article’s writing, the author did not have positions in any of the companies mentioned.