Stock market live Wednesday: Dow surges 1,173, stocks exit correction, health care names jump

Traders work on the floor at the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York, U.S., February 25, 2020.
Brendan McDermid | Reuters

Stocks rallied straight out of the gate on Wednesday morning, and have been moving steadily higher ever since. Markets are getting a boost following former Vice President Joe Biden's strong Super Tuesday showing. Many on the Street regard Biden's policies as more market friendly than those of Senators Sanders and Warren.

Here's the latest:

4:00 pm: Stocks close near session highs

The major averages rallied into the close with stocks ending the day right around session highs as the Street cheered former Vice President Joe Biden's Super Tuesday results. The Dow gained 1,173 points, or 4.5%. The S&P 500 and Nasdaq finished the day with gains of 4.2% and 3.85%, respectively. It was the Dow's second highest point gain on record, behind Monday's 1,294 gain.  - Stevens

3:45 pm: Dow rallies more than 1,000 points

The Dow Jones Industrial Average is now up more than 1,000 points, the second time in three days that it's surged above the 1,000 mark. On Monday the 30-stock index gained 1,294 points, before falling 786 points on Tuesday. - Stevens

3:24 pm: Dow surges 990 points

With just over a half hour of trading left in the day, stocks are moving higher ahead of the close. The Dow is now up 990 points, or 3.8%, and the S&P 500 and Nasdaq are also posting a gain of more than 3%. - Stevens

2:52 pm: United reduces April flight schedule

United Airlines announced that it is shrinking its April flight schedule by 20% for international travel and 10% for domestic travel. The company is also implementing a hiring freeze and offering voluntary, unpaid leaves of absence to employees. Shares of United were trading at about $57.70 on Wednesday afternoon, down 1% for the day. — Pound

2:36 pm: Dow soars 900 points

The Dow Jones Industrial Average accelerated its gains in afternoon trading on Wednesday, surging 900 points. The S&P 500 rose more than 3% and the Nasdaq Composite jumped 2.8%. - Fitzgerald

2:26 pm: Fed will raise rates based on inflation, not coronavirus outcome, economist says

Former PIMCO chief economist Paul McCulley said on " Powel Lunch" that he did not think the Fed would raise its benchmark interest rate once the coronavirus outbreak was contained unless inflation was rising. "They can't reverse whatever they do right now. Back in December, effectively, Chair Powell promised that there'd be no tightening until they actually realize their 2% inflation target. So once they come down, then they're down for the duration until you get inflation back up," he said. — Pound

2:13 pm: Fed says economy has been growing at 'modest to moderate rate'

The Federal Reserve's Beige Book said that economic activity has "expanded at a modest to moderate rate" in recent weeks. The report does not include information from after Feb. 24. Consumer spending picked up overall but was uneven around the country, the report said. Some companies reported supply chain disruptions due to the coronavirus outbreak and concern that those issues could continue. — Pound

1:54 pm: Here's what to look for when searching for a market bottom

Strategists at RBC Capital Markets and Credit Suisse laid out indicators they think need to be triggered for the market to form a significant bottom from the coronavirus. RBC's Lori Calvasina says positioning by asset managers is still in "euphoric territory" and needs to come down. Meanwhile, Credit Suisse's Andrew Garthwaite says the number of new coronavirus cases globally needs to peak before a bottom is formed. — Imbert

1:30 pm: Huge volume again on S&P 500 ETF

The SPDR S&P 500 ETF Trust (SPY) has already traded more than 90 million shares, quickly approaching its 30-day average volume of 110.25 million. The SPY has seen huge volumes in recent days amid the market's wild swings. —Imbert

1:28 pm: Rally accelerates with Dow surging 850 points

Wall Street's rally gained steam in early afternoon trading with the Dow soaring about 850 points. UnitedHealth led the gains in the 30-stock average, jumping nearly 11%, on pace for its best day since 2009. The S&P 500 and the Nasdaq were both up nearly 3%. - Li

1:25 pm: Stocks rally on Biden's Super Tuesday victory, says Wall Street

Firms on Wall Street attributed the market's stunning reversal on Wednesday to the outcome from Super Tuesday. Former Vice President Joe Biden secured a lead in the Democratic primary, topping Senator Bernie Sanders' delegate count. This fact soothed some of Wall Street's fears about the Vermont senator's anti-capitalist policy proposals. After losing nearly 800 points on Tuesday, the Dow Jones Industrial Average last traded up more than 835 points. "The race is not yet over, but immediate reaction is likely a relief rally as the tail risk of some of Sanders' policies will be seen as less likely today than last week," Raymond James policy analyst Ed Mills said in a note to clients. – Fitzgerald

1:22 pm: All 11 S&P 500 sectors up more than 1%

All 11 S&P 500 sectors are moving higher, with each one registering at least a 1% gain. Health care is the top performer, rising 4.6%. Utilities, staples and tech are all up more than 3%. The relative under-performers are financials and energy, gaining just 1.7% and 1.2%, respectively. - Stevens

1:07 pm: Major averages exit correction territory

Stock gains accelerated in afternoon trading, with the Dow jumping more than 750 points for a nearly 3% gain. The S&P 500 and Nasdaq are up 2.7% and 2.5%, respectively. With the move higher all three averages have exited correction territory, meaning they are now less than 10% below recent highs. - Stevens

12:14 pm: Markets at midday: Dow rallies as UnitedHealth shares surge on Biden victories

Around midday, the Dow was up more than 500 points, led by an 8.5% rally in UnitedHeath shares. The move up for the 30-stock average and UNH came after former Vice President Joe Biden scored major victories in Super Tuesday primaries, curbing the momentum of Sen. Bernie Sanders. Biden is seen by many as a more market-friendly candidate given some of Sanders' proposals, including Medicare for All. —Imbert

12:06 pm: IMF announces $50 billion aid for virus relief

The International Monetary Fund put together a $50 billion aid package to help fight the coronavirus, managing director Kristalina Georgieva announced on CNBC's "Squawk Alley," adding that the money is available "immediately." Georgieva earlier cited "a generalized weakening in demand" that is hitting confidence and spilling over into "trade and tourism, commodity prices and tightened financial conditions." — Li

11:52 am: Health care leads market higher after Biden's strong showing on Super Tuesday

Health-care stocks led equity markets higher on Wednesday after former Vice President Joe Biden's strong showing in Super Tuesday voting. Biden is viewed on Wall Street as a far more middle-of-the-road candidate who may not crack down on biotech and pharmaceutical companies to the same extent Sens. Elizabeth Warren or Bernie Sanders would. For his part, Biden has argued that those in support of "Medicare for All" are attempting to undermine the Affordable Care Act, which he supports with some tweaks. UnitedHealth, one of the largest health insurance companies in the world, rallied 8.8% in midday trading. Humana rose 12.8%, Centene rose 11.8% and Cigna rose 9.2%. — Franck

11:28 am: Health care providers ETF tracking for best day in more than a decade

Health Care Providers ETF (IHF) is up 7% and on pace for its best day since Oct 13, 2008, as the broader health care sector leads markets higher. Leaders within the fund include Anthem and Humana which are each up more than 13%, as well as Molina and Centene which are up 11% and 12%, respectively. – Francolla, Stevens

10:45 am: Campbell Soup soars to new high on earnings

Shares of Campbell Soup jumped more than 7% on Wednesday to a new 52-week high of $51.87 per share, following its strong quarterly results. The food company reported earnings of 72 cents per share on revenue of $2.162 billion. This beat the 66 cents per share on revenue of $2.154 billion expected by Wall Street analysts, according to Refinitiv. Campbell also raised its full year earnings estimates. – Fitzgerald

10:28 am: ISM services readings points to strong growth

Economic reports continue to suggest little to no hit from the coronavirus yet. The ISM Non-Manufacturing Index is the latest data point to show strong U.S. growth. The February reading came in at 57.8, above the 55 the market expected and better than the 55.5 from January. The reading is a percentage of respondents seeing growing activity, so anything above 50 represents expansion. In addition to the strong top-line number, new orders jumped 6.9 percentage points to 63.1 while the employment index hit 55.6, up 2.5 percentage points from January. – Cox

10:27 am: Bank of Canada slashes rates by half a point

The Bank of Canada cut its benchmark interest rate by 50 basis points, following the Federal Reserve in easing monetary policy to combat the economic impact from the coronavirus. The central bank said the epidemic represents a "material negative shock" and it "stands ready to adjust monetary policy further." The move marks its first cut in more than four years. - Li

10:18 am: Bloomberg suspends presidential campaign

Former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg said Wednesday that he was ending his presidential campaign. The billionaire spent more than $500 million on campaign advertising, but of the 14 states and territories at stake on March 3, he was only able to take American Samoa. Bloomberg has endorsed former Vice President Joe Biden. - Stevens

10:09 am: Lyft shares pop after JPMorgan calls the ride hailing company 'extremely compelling at current levels'

JPMorgan put out a bullish note on Lyft Wednesday morning, sending shares of the company up 2%. The firm said the 30% pullback from Lyft's February high is a great entry point into the stock, which has strong fundamentals and a path to profitability in 2021. "Lyft shares currently trade below 2x 2020E revenue & we believe they are extremely compelling at current levels," said JPMorgan analyst Doug Anmuth. JPMorgan reiterated its overweight rating and $85 per share price target on Lyft, which is 126% above where the stock currently trades. The firm also said it doesn't think the company will be impacted by the coronavirus, as last week Lyft had its biggest week ever in terms of rides and revenue. – Fitzgerald

10:01 am: All 11 S&P 500 sectors higher

It's green across the board with all 11 S&P 500 sectors moving higher in early trading. Health care is the leader, with a gain of more than 3%. Real estate and utilities are each up more than 2%, with staples and tech up more than 1%. The financials sector has spent some time in negative territory, however. - Stevens

9:46 am: UnitedHealth responsible for big chunk of Dow's gains

UnitedHealth was solely responsible for more than 200 points of the Dow's 500-point rally in early trading Wednesday. For context, the second-biggest contributor of gains on the Dow was Apple with 44 points. — Imbert

9:44 am: Here are Wednesday's biggest analyst calls

  • Citi upgraded Morgan Stanley to buy from neutral.
  • Wells Fargo upgraded Chipotle to overweight from equal weight.
  • Goldman Sachs added Target to the conviction buy list.
  • Nomura Instinet upgraded Home Depot to buy from neutral.
  • Barclays downgraded Nordstrom to underweight from equal weight.
  • SocGen upgraded Oracle to buy from hold.
  • KeyBanc upgraded Mattel to overweight from sector weight.
  • Argus initiated Beyond Meat as buy.

CNBC PRO subscribers can read more here. - Bloom

9:31 am: Stocks surge, Dow gains more than 700 points

Stocks surged at the open with the Dow Jones Industrial Average rising more than 700 points as former Vice President Joe Biden won key delegates during Super Tuesday, reassuring some investors of his place among the front-runners. The Dow gained 2.6%, while the S&P and Nasdaq each gained roughly 2%. With the steep surge, the Dow has recovered more than half of its Tuesday loss, which saw the index shed 786 points. - Stevens

9:13 am: Bank of America 'increasingly bullish' on gold

Bank of America is becoming more bullish on gold as the coronavirus outbreak roils global markets. The firm said raised its fourth quarter target to $1,700 per ounce and said that gold is poised to rally amid a potential global economic slowdown. Gold is currently trading at $1,642.20 per ounce. The call follows bullish comments from Goldman Sachs on Monday, with the firm saying the precious metal has "immunity" to the coronavirus. 

Bank of America also double upgraded shares of Eldorado Gold to buy, and said that other top picks in the space include Newmont Mining and Barrick Gold- Stevens

8:59 am: Health care stocks surge after Biden's Super Tuesday resurgence

Health care stocks are soaring in the premarket as a resurgence by former Vice President Joe Biden in the Democratic primaries curbed some of Sen. Bernie Sanders' momentum. UnitedHealth jumped more than 10%. Anthem shares gained nearly 10% while Cigna surged 9%. The Health Care Select Sector SPDR ETF (XLV) jumped 3.5%. Biden's victories on Super Tuesday lower the odds of Sanders becoming the Democratic presidential nominee. Some of Sanders' proposals, including Medicare for All, are seen by some investors as detrimental to the health care sector. - Imbert

8:20 am: Private payrolls jump in February

Despite the coronavirus scare, U.S. companies kept adding jobs in February. Employment excluding government jobs rose by 183,000 for the month, according to a report Wednesday from Moody's Analytics, topping the 155,000 that economists surveyed by Dow Jones had expected. While the report was better than expected, the news was tempered by a big downward revision to January's number, which fell from an initially reported 291,000 down to 209,000. - Stevens

8:00 am: 10-year Treasury yield near 1%

The 10-year Treasury yield is hovering near 1% after breaking the threshold for the first time ever in the wake of an emergency rate cut by the Federal Reserve to offset the economic impact from the coronavirus. As of Wednesday morning, the benchmark note was flat at 1.003%, after tumbling into uncharted territory on Tuesday — an all-time low of 0.906%. Bond prices move inversely with yields. Expectations remain high that global central banks will follow suit and provide more stimulus to offset the coronavirus impact. - Li

7:43 am: Nordstrom sinks 8% after earnings, Barclays downgrade

Shares of Nordstrom slid more than 8% in Wednesday's premarket trading after the company reported disappointing fourth quarter results. The retailer earned $1.42 per share on $4.54 billion in revenue, which was below the $1.47 and $4.56 billion the Street had been expecting, according to estimates from Refinitiv. Barclays also downgraded the stock to an underweight rating and slashed its price target to $29 — 13% below where the stock currently trades — saying there are more compelling opportunities elsewhere in the sector. - Stevens

7:38 am: Target shares pop after Goldman adds the retailer to its conviction list

Shares of Target popped more than 2% in premarket trading on Wednesday after Goldman added the retailer to its  "Americas Conviction List." Target reported mixed earnings on Tuesday and Goldman said despite the lighter top line, the company grew gross margin and operating margin dollars. Goldman said Target's multiple has contracted thanks to its nearly 20% pullback this year, making it more affordable. Goldman also lowered Target's price target to $125 per share from $135 per share, implying nearly 20% upside potential. Goldman has a buy rating on Target. – Fitzgerald

7:21 am: Futures point to triple digit jump at the open

U.S. stock futures are pointing to gains at the open following the Super Tuesday results that showed former vice President Joe Biden winning key delegates. The Dow Jones Industrial Average is set to open 657 points higher, or 2.2%, with the S&P and Nasdaq also set to open more than 2% higher.

A potential surge at the open is in keeping with the market's recent bout of volatility. On Tuesday the major averages briefly rallied following the Federal Reserve's emergency rate cut, but couldn't hold onto gains and ultimately ended the day with a nearly 3% loss. The Dow shed 786 points, or 2.94%, while the S&P 500 and Nasdaq fell 2.81% and 2.99%, respectively. Tuesday's sharp drop erased more than half of stocks' gains on Monday when the averages posted their largest single day point gain on record. - Stevens

With reporting from CNBC's Fred Imbert, Jeff Cox, Thomas Franck, Jesse Pound and Michael Bloom.

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