Dow rises more than 150 points as Apple hits record, leads tech higher

Stocks rise at open as large-cap tech stocks continue to dominate

Stocks rose on Wednesday as gains in major tech names such as Apple and Microsoft led the way even as coronavirus cases keep rising at a record pace. 

The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed 177.10 points higher, or 0.7%, at 26,067.28. Earlier in the day, the Dow was up more than 200 points and briefly turned negative. The S&P 500 climbed 0.8% to 3,169.94 and the Nasdaq Composite advanced 1.2% to 10,492.50, notching a record closing high. 

Apple rose 2.3% to a record high after a Deutsche Bank analyst hiked his price target on the stock. Microsoft shares gained 2.2% and Netflix climbed nearly 2%. Amazon closed 2.7% higher. The S&P 500 tech sector ended the day up 1.6% and posted an all-time closing high. 

"It seems like you flip a switch when those Covid cases go up, the country takes a step back in terms of reopening the economy and all those names find high demand," said Christian Fromhertz, CEO of The Tribeca Trade Group, referring to tech and software shares. If that changes, he added, "people will start to look at the more under-owned names once again."

Names that would benefit from the economy reopening were under pressure for most of the day before rebounding in the final hour of trading. United fell as much as 3.8% after the company warned 36,000 employees about potential job cuts. The stock recovered to close just below the flatline. 

Wednesday's move higher comes as the U.S. reported a record daily spike of more than 60,000 coronavirus cases on Tuesday. The total number of confirmed U.S. cases now totals more than 3 million, according to Johns Hopkins University

Coronavirus-related deaths have risen to more than 131,000 in the U.S., according to Hopkins. As cases and deaths rise, data compiled by Apple Maps shows driving activity is slowing down across the country, which could be a warning sign for the economic comeback. 

"The COVID numbers in the US remain troubling and this is beginning to create economic headwinds," said Adam Crisafulli, founder of Vital Knowledge, in a note. 

White House economic advisor Larry Kudlow tried to assuage concerns over the virus' impact on the economy, telling CNBC's "Squawk Box" the data indicates a sharp recovery. 

"No one's denied we've had a huge jump in cases in certain hot spots," Kudlow said Wednesday. However, "one cannot rule out: There's a lot of scenarios here. We really don't have any real experience in econometrics modeling for this type of thing. Because so much is generated by the virus. At the moment, we've created 8 million new jobs the last couple of months. ... Virtually every piece of data shows a V-shaped recovery."

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—CNBC's Michael Bloom contributed to this report.