By Lewis Krauskopf
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Wall Street surged on Wednesday, with the Dow industrials and S&P 500 hitting fresh records, as equities continued their march upward after the election of Donald Trump as U.S. president, and a new high for transportation stocks added to the bullish tone.
All three major indexes finished more than 1 percent higher.
The gains came even as Trump's comments on prescription drug pricing wounded the healthcare sector.
U.S. equities have scaled new highs since the election, with investors encouraged by Trump's plans for economic stimulus and to reduce corporate taxes and regulations.
"I think it’s continuation of the view that the new administration will be pro-business," said Ernie Cecilia, chief investment officer of Bryn Mawr Trust in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania.
The Dow Jones industrial average <.DJI> rose 297.84 points, or 1.55 percent, to 19,549.62, the S&P 500 <.SPX> gained 29.12 points, or 1.32 percent, to 2,241.35 and the Nasdaq Composite <.IXIC> added 60.76 points, or 1.14 percent, to 5,393.76.
The S&P 500 set a new closing high for the first time since Nov. 25.
The Dow Jones Transport Average <.DJT> rose 2.5 percent and set new all-time intraday and closing highs, surpassing its prior peaks from late 2014.
A finish above the closing record for the transportation average could indicate further gains as it triggers a bullish sign for some investors who look for parallel performance for both the Dow industrial and transportation averages.
"You're going to have these (software) programs that are now going to say Dow Theory has been confirmed and they then initiate buy orders, which creates more fuel for the fire," said Ken Polcari, director of the NYSE floor division at O'Neil Securities in New York.
Gains were broad-based with 10 of 11 major sectors in positive territory.
A $3-billion trading program to buy a broad spectrum of stocks also came into the market in the afternoon and "really just sparked this market to move higher and higher," said Jonathan Corpina, senior managing partner for Meridian Equity Partners, an equity and options broker-dealer in New York.
Telecommunications <.SPLRCL> and real estate <.SPLRCR>, which are high dividend payers, posted the strongest sector gains.
"There's a little bit of a bond market rally going on, certainly in the long end, so that means dividend stocks feel better,"said Brian Battle, director of trading at Performance Trust Capital Partners in Chicago.
Traders also pointed to covering of short positions ahead of Thursday's meeting of the European Central Bank as a catalyst driving the market higher.
Trump's victory has been seen as a boon, particularly for financial and industrial stocks that have surged since the election.
But biotechnology and pharmaceutical stocks tumbled on Wednesday after Trump promised in a Time magazine article that "I’m going to bring down drug prices."
The S&P healthcare <.SPXHC> fell 0.8 percent, the only group in negative territory. The Nasdaq Biotechnology index <.NBI> slumped 2.9 percent, recovering from steeper losses initially after Trump's comments were publicized.
Trump's effect was seen on Tuesday, as well, with Boeing's <BA.N> stock falling briefly after his tweet that an order for a revamped Air Force One plane should be canceled over high costs.
"I think it is a new fact of life ... that fundamentals can be swept aside any day by comments from the (President-elect)," said David Donabedian, chief investment officer of Atlantic Trust Private Wealth Management.
About 8.2 billion shares changed hands in U.S. exchanges, above the 8 billion daily average over the last 20 sessions.
Advancing issues outnumbered declining ones on the NYSE by a 3.31-to-1 ratio; on Nasdaq, a 1.80-to-1 ratio favored advancers.
The S&P 500 posted 98 new 52-week highs and seven new lows; the Nasdaq Composite recorded 350 new highs and 32 new lows.
(Additional reporting by Sinead Carew and Caroline Valetkevitch in New York and Yashaswini Swamynathan in Bengaluru; Editing by Nick Zieminski and James Dalgleish)