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Stocks notch record highs as investors shrug off coronavirus fears

Stocks marched into record terrain Wednesday, buoyed by solid corporate earnings and signs that the coronavirus outbreak may be slowing.

Health officials raised hopes that the spread of the virus, called COVID-19, is peaking after new cases dropped for a second straight day. Shortly before the close of trade, the Dow was up 262 points, or 0.9%, to an intra-day high of 29,538. The broader S&P 500 and tech-heavy also neared all-time highs. 

"Stocks hit another record this morning reflecting an easing of coronavirus concerns," KDP Investment Advisors analyst Dennis Dowden said in a note to investors. 

The latest batch of corporate earnings has been surprisingly good. Beer maker Molson Coors rose 4.1% after handily beating Wall Street's fourth-quarter profit forecasts. Akamai Technologies rose 4.7% after the cloud services provider beat analysts' profit and revenue forecasts.

Technology stocks led the broad gains. Apple rose 1.2% and Qualcomm climbed 2.6%. Companies that rely on consumer spending, including Amazon and Nike, also did well.

Insurers including UnitedHealth and Anthem led the health care sector higher. Utilities and real estate companies lagged the market in another sign that investors were more confident and shifting money into investments that carry more risk.

Ride-hailing service Lyft plunged 8.5% after it decided to stick with its prediction that it won't turn a profit until the end of next year. Lyft's prediction of a profit in the fourth quarter of 2021 is a year behind rival Uber, which earlier this month said it would make money in the fourth quarter of this year.

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