US stocks have closed higher in part due to a boost from the healthcare sector on positive COVID-19 vaccine news, while uncertainty over fresh fiscal stimulus held gains in check.

Johnson & Johnson rose to help lift both the Dow and S&P 500 on Tuesday after the company said it could obtain late-stage trial results of a single-dose COVID-19 vaccine it is developing in January, earlier than expected.

Pfizer Inc also advanced as it cleared the next hurdle in the race to get its COVID-19 vaccine approved for emergency use after the US health regulator released documents raising no new safety or efficacy issues.

Wall Street’s main indices have traded in a tight range to start the trading week as investors look for more stimulus in the face of surging COVID-19 cases and fresh restrictions in California.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said lawmakers should pass an aid package that includes measures they can agree on while excluding provisions such as liability protections for businesses that are causing division.

Unofficially, the Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 113.29 points, or 0.38 per cent, to 30,183.08, the S&P 500 gained 10.62 points, or 0.29 per cent, to 3,702.58 and the Nasdaq Composite added 61.85 points, or 0.49 per cent, to 12,581.80.

Investors are closely watching whether policymakers will be able to clinch an agreement on a long-awaited coronavirus relief bill and a $1.4 trillion spending bill, with Friday eyed as a deadline to avoid a government shutdown.

The US Congress will vote this week on a one-week stopgap funding bill to provide more time for lawmakers to reach a deal on both spending and pandemic relief.

Positive developments related to the COVID-19 vaccine have in recent weeks helped investors look past the surge in infections and anticipate an economic rebound next year.

Analysts now expect investor attention to gradually shift from vaccine approvals to their global distribution and any possible side effects that may occur.

Boeing Co dipped after company data showed the planemaker lost another 63 orders for its newly ungrounded 737 MAX jet in November.

After spending the early part of the session in negative territory, Tesla Inc reversed course and moved higher after the electric-car maker unveiled a $5 billion capital raise, its second such move in three months.

Drug developer Moderna Inc jumped after Switzerland increased its confirmed orders for its COVID-19 vaccine doses to 7.5 million from 4.5 million.