The S&P 500 has ended higher as investors weighed the prospect of more fiscal stimulus against fears of further business disruptions due to a record rise in COVID-19 cases.

Netflix tumbled 6.5 per cent after the video streaming service forecast slower-than-expected subscriber growth during the third quarter, pulling the communication services sector down 0.4 per cent.

The S&P 500 utilities, real estate and healthcare indexes were the session’s strongest gainers.

However, a 1.5 per cent drop in Goldman Sachs helped keep the Dow in negative territory.

For the week, the S&P 500 and the Dow rose 1.2 per cent and 2.3 per cent, respectively, after optimism over an eventual coronavirus vaccine and hopes of a post-pandemic economic recovery helped investors look past a continuous surge in COVID-19 cases.

The United States witnessed 77,000 new infections on Thursday.

The Nasdaq ended 1.1 per cent lower for the week as investors sold shares of high-flying companies including Microsoft Corp and Inc and moved into cyclical sectors.

Next week, second-quarter earnings season shifts into high gear with reports expected from corporate heavyweights including Microsoft, Tesla, Intel and Verizon Communications.

With this year largely written off as a disaster for US corporations because of the coronavirus, investors are looking for information from companies about the potential size and timing of an eventual recovery.

“The question is what 2021 and 2022 look like, and what can folks glean from the commentary, especially when companies have withdrawn their guidance and made it difficult to get a sense of what their prospects look like,” said Tom Hainlin, National Investment Strategist at US Bank Wealth Management.

The Cboe Volatility Index, known as Wall Street’s “fear gauge,” ended at 25.68, its lowest closing level since June 5.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 0.23 per cent to end at 26,672.36 points, while the S&P 500 gained 0.29 per cent to 3,224.75 and the Nasdaq Composite climbed 0.28 per cent to 10,503.19.

Unprecedented stimulus measures and improving economic data have helped the S&P 500 rise to within about 5.0 per cent of its February record high.

Investors are also hoping for more fiscal support as a program that offers additional unemployment benefits is set to expire on July 31.

The US Congress will return to Washington DC on Monday to debate another coronavirus aid bill.

“Both Republicans and Democrats have a strong incentive to agree upon further pre-election stimulus. It’s not a matter of ‘if’ a stimulus passes, it’s just what the size and content of that package looks like,” said Andrea Bevis, senior vice president, UBS Private Wealth Management, based in Boston.

BlackRock Inc, the world’s largest asset manager, rose 3.7 per cent after reporting a jump in quarterly profit as investors poured money into its fixed-income funds and cash management services.

Volume on US exchanges was 9.5 billion shares, compared with the 11.6 billion average for the full session over the last 20 trading days.

Advancing issues outnumbered declining ones on the NYSE by a 1.43-to-1 ratio; on Nasdaq, a 1.50-to-1 ratio favoured advancers.

The S&P 500 posted 39 new 52-week highs and no new lows; the Nasdaq Composite recorded 89 new highs and 11 new lows.