4:15 p.m. ET: North American markets close higher, S&P 500 nears record high

North American equity markets closed broadly higher on Wednesday, as investors weighed the prospect for further U.S. stimulus efforts and the ongoing deluge of corporate earnings against concerns over rising COVID-19 case counts worldwide. The S&P/TSX Composite Index gained 0.82 per cent, the S&P 500 rose 0.64 per cent, the Dow Jones Industrial Average notched a 1.39-per-cent gain and the Nasdaq Composite rose 0.52 per cent.

The four-day rally for the S&P 500 now has the broad-market U.S. benchmark within two per cent of its February high, while the Nasdaq briefly broke above the 11,000 mark for the first time ever. The TSX is still more than eight per cent below its February peak.

In Toronto, nine of the 11 TSX subgroups finished the day in positive territory, led by financials, consumer discretionary and information technology. Only utilities and communications services closed the day lower.

Oil prices pared some earlier gains, with U.S. benchmark West Texas Intermediate gaining one per cent to US$42.13 per barrel to close out the session at a five-month high. WTI had briefly broken above the US$43-per-barrel mark, though it gave up some gains after data showed U.S. gasoline and distillate inventories rose last week as the traditional summer driving season begins to wane.

Alberta’s Western Canadian Select fell into negative territory for the session, down 0.82 per cent to US$30.16 per barrel.

The Canadian dollar moderated some earlier gains against its American counterpart, though the loonie did finish the day a quarter of a cent higher to trade at 75.30 U.S. cents.

12:00 p.m. ET: North American markets gain ground, Disney powers Dow higher

North American equity markets held onto their gains through midday trading Wednesday, with the S&P/TSX Composite rising 0.7 per cent, the S&P 500 up 0.6 per cent, the Nasdaq Composite Index gaining 0.25 per cent and the Dow Jones Industrial outperforming its peers with a 1.2 per cent gain.

The push higher on the broad markets came as investors weighed prospects for substantial U.S. stimulus and the continued stream of corporate earnings.

The Dow’s outperformance was in no small part due shares of Walt Disney Co., which surged more than 10 per cent after the entertainment titan posted a surprise adjusted profit and announced ambitious plans to scale up its streaming efforts.

The commodity complex continued to post gains, with gold prices extending a record run to trade at US$2,058 per ounce. The precious metal has gained more than 30 per cent this year amid some safe-haven buying and the weak U.S. dollar environment.

Oil prices held onto their gains, with U.S. benchmark West Texas Intermediate gaining 3.3 per cent to trade near a five-month high above US$43 per barrel. Alberta’s Western Canadian Select was up 2.1 per cent to US$31.05 per barrel.

That commodity strength played into the TSX’s gains, with the energy and materials subgroups posting the largest percentage increases on the composite. Overall, six of the 11 TSX subgroups were in positive territory.

The Canadian dollar was higher against its U.S counterpart, rising more than three-tenths of a cent to 75.44 cents U.S.

9:45 a.m. ET: North American equity markets rise amid stimulus hopes, earnings

North American equity markets pushed higher in early trading Wednesday, with the S&P/TSX Composite Index and Dow Jones Industrial Average both up 0.6 per cent, the S&P 500 gaining 0.4 per cent and the Nasdaq Composite Index up a quarter of one per cent.

Markets gained ground as investors weigh the prospects for massive U.S. stimulus efforts, the search for a COVID-19 vaccine and a busy slate of corporate earnings.

Oil prices were in rally mode, with U.S. benchmark West Texas Intermediate hitting its highest level since March, up four per cent to US$43.40. Alberta’s Western Canadian Select rose 5.66 per cent to US$32.13 per barrel.

Crude got a boost after the American Petroleum Institute said U.S. stockpiles likely fell 8.6 million barrels last week as demand picked up.  

Gold extended its rally further into record territory, rising 1.9 per cent to US$2,059 an ounce. Gold prices are up more than 30 per cent year-to-date, as a weakening U.S. dollar helps lift bullion prices.

In Toronto, that commodity strength was on full display, with eight of the 11 TSX subgroups in positive territory, led by energy and materials.

The Canadian dollar gained four-tenths of a cent against its U.S. counterpart to trade at 75.45 cents U.S.