Biden Taps Yellen for Treasury; Oil Stocks Jump

Stocks rallied on Monday as a combination of several news items with macroeconomic implications sparked buying. The pace of the pandemic’s spread remains an overhang, with U.S. hospitalizations rising to another record high for the 13th day in a row.

On the brighter side, more positive vaccine news came Monday, with AstraZeneca (ticker: AZN) and Oxford University announcing that their candidate was up to 90% effective. Now the third major vaccine to boast meaningful efficacy levels in late-stage trials, the AstraZeneca news reinforces the sense that a trustworthy vaccine will start to be distributed in the coming months.

President-elect Joe Biden also reportedly settled on former Federal Reserve Chairwoman Janet Yellen as his Treasury secretary. Seen as dovish during her leadership of the central bank between 2014 and 2018, she signals the incoming administration’s willingness to facilitate further stimulus.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 327 points, or 1.1%, to finish at 29,591.

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Oil stocks rally. The energy sector caught fire — in a good way — on Monday, as oil prices hit a three-month high. Energy prices have become increasingly tied to the outlook on the pace and duration of the pandemic, as shutdowns, travel restrictions and other precautions have severely reduced global oil demand.

To that end, AstraZeneca’s vaccine announcement helped spark the rally, which saw the energy sector jump 7.1% on Monday. Occidental Petroleum Corp. ( OXY), a beaten-down oil and natural gas producer, finished as the best-performing stock in the S&P 500 for the day, advancing 16.8%.

Peter Thiel is funding psychedelics. Perhaps, given his famously libertarian bent, a move by Peter Thiel to bet on the future of psychedelics should’ve been expected earlier. Thiel, a billionaire venture capitalist who co-founded PayPal ( PYPL) and was the earliest major backer of Facebook ( FB), participated in a $125 million funding round for German startup ATAI Life Sciences. The company aims to use psychedelics to treat mental illness.

Although years behind the societal acceptance of substances like marijuana, the tide of public opinion is slowly bending toward tolerance of psychedelic drugs. This month, Oregon became the first U.S. state to decriminalize psilocybin, the naturally occurring, mind-altering compound found in so-called magic mushrooms.

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