By Stephen Culp
NEW YORK, Aug 24 (Reuters) - Wall Street gained on Monday, setting the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq on track for record closing highs as optimism over potential medical advances in the war against the coronavirus pandemic helped keep investors in a buying mood.
The benchmark S&P 500 reclaimed its February closing high last week, confirming a bull market and the fastest recovery from a bear market trough on record.
The blue-chip Dow, while leading Monday's gains, remains nearly 5% off its all time high, and down just over 1% year-to-date. The Nasdaq and the S&P have gained over 26% and nearly 6%, respectively, since the final closing bell of 2019.
"There was no news over the weekend following last week's (bull market) confirmation to cause a shift in thinking," said Oliver Pursche, president of Bronson Meadows Capital Management in Fairfield, Connecticut.
"As economies reopen, businesses are still keeping employees at home, which gives the 'stay-at-home' trade more legs," Pursche added.
Markets worldwide were given a boost by new developments in the global race to battle the coronavirus, including an announcement from the Food and Drug Administration that it had given emergency authorization for the use of plasma from recovered patients as a treatment option.
However, the World Health Organization expressed skepticism about the treatment due to "low quality" data.
The Trump administration is considering fast-tracking an experimental COVID-19 vaccine being developed by AstraZeneca Plc AZN.L and Oxford University in hopes it could be deployed in the United States before Americans head to the polls in November.
"Trump's team has been very vocal about getting a vaccine before the election," Pursche said.
The four-day Republican national convention gets under way on Monday, with the party nominating President Donald Trump for a second term and making the case for his re-election.
On Capitol Hill, partisan wrangling over stalled coronavirus aid talks continued, and congressional Democrats and Republicans remain at loggerheads over funding levels and unemployment benefits.
Market participants will pay close attention to U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell's remarks on monetary policy at this week's Kansas City Fed Jackson Hole symposium, which is being held this year in a virtual format.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average .DJI rose 261.58 points, or 0.94%, to 28,191.91, the S&P 500 .SPX gained 23.68 points, or 0.70%, to 3,420.84 and the Nasdaq Composite .IXIC added 52.48 points, or 0.46%, to 11,364.28.
Of the 11 major sectors in the S&P 500, all but healthcare .SPXHC and real estate .SPLRCR were in positive territory.
Energy .SPNY, financials .SPSY and materials .SPLRCM enjoyed the largest percentage gains.
Ahead of its 4-to-1 share split on Friday, Apple Inc AAPL.O provided the biggest boost the major indexes, its stock price crossing over $500 days after becoming the first public U.S. company to top $2 trillion in market value. The stock was last up 1.7%.
Advancing issues outnumbered declining ones on the NYSE by a 2.42-to-1 ratio; on Nasdaq, a 1.16-to-1 ratio favored advancers.
The S&P 500 posted 45 new 52-week highs and no new lows; the Nasdaq Composite recorded 80 new highs and 34 new lows.
(Reporting by Stephen Culp; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)
The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.