The S&P 500 is little changed as investors weigh near-term economic pain from surging coronavirus cases against growing optimism that a working vaccine is near while the Dow was boosted by a rise in shares of Boeing.

The plane maker advanced 3.2 per cent after getting US approval to fly its 737 MAX jet again after a 20-month grounding following two fatal crashes.

The news also lifted shares of airlines.

American Airlines gained 3.6 per cent and Southwest Airlines added 2.1 per cent as the carriers laid out plans to fly the aircraft again.

Pfizer Inc said it would apply for emergency US authorisation of its COVID-19 vaccine within days and disclosed final results from a late-stage trial that showed it was 95 per cent effective.

The drug maker’s shares rose 3.0 per cent.

The announcement comes after Moderna Inc on Monday released preliminary data for its COVID-19 vaccine, showing similar effectiveness.

Meanwhile, the number of reported global daily deaths from the coronavirus stood at its highest ever on Tuesday, as the virus’ global epicentre the United States entered winter.

“The current market narrative seems to encompass a tug-of-war between good news on the vaccine front, juxtaposed against increasing new cases of COVID,” said Art Hogan, chief market strategist at National Securities in New York.

In early trading, the Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 69.04 points, or 0.23 per cent, to 29,852.39, the S&P 500 fell 1.77 points or 0.05 per cent to 3,607.76 and the Nasdaq composite lost 41.47 points, or 0.35 per cent to 11,857.87.

Target Corp rose 2.3 per cent after the big-box retailer blew past expectations for quarterly profit and sales as its quick delivery services boosted online shopping.

Discount store operator TJX Companies Inc rose about 3.0 per cent after topping quarterly sales estimates.

“With earnings announcements coming in better than expected from the retail space and the positive news on Boeing, it should drive interest in cyclicals,” said Robert Pavlik, senior portfolio manager at Dakota Wealth, New York.

S&P sectors sensitive to economic growth, such as financials , industrials, materials and energy , led the gainers.

The benchmark S&P 500 and the blue-chip Dow retreated from all-time highs on Tuesday as glum US retail sales data, as well as the spectre of fresh restrictions dampened demand for risky assets.

Lowe’s Cos Inc tumbled 5.0 per cent as the home improvement chain forecast holiday-quarter earnings largely below analysts’ estimates.

Advancing issues outnumbered decliners on the NYSE by a 1.9-to-1 ratio and by a 1.7-to-1 ratio on the Nasdaq.

The S&P 500 posted 12 new 52-week highs and no new low while the Nasdaq Composite recorded 130 new highs and five new lows.