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US stocks have surged for a third straight day and the Nasdaq hit a new record high, helped by strong monthly domestic private jobs data and reports of progress in developing a treatment to fight the fast-spreading coronavirus.

Private-sector payrolls increased by 291,000 in January, the ADP National Employment Report said on Wednesday, far above expectations of 156,000 job additions.

“Investors are looking at economic data which is better than expected and earnings season which have been good,” said Art Hogan, chief market strategist at National Securities in New York.

“Markets are trying to price in a more realistic view of the economic damage which will follow this disease.”

Earlier in the day, stock index futures got a boost after a report that a Zhejiang University team had found some drugs that could inhibit the coronavirus in vitro cell experiments.

Separately, researchers in the UK told Sky News that they have made a “significant breakthrough” in finding a vaccine.

Reuters could not independently verify the reports but several traders cited them for the sharp moves in global stock markets.

The World Health Organisation played down the reports, saying “there are no known effective therapeutics against this 2019-nCoV (virus)”.

Wall Street has staged a stellar comeback in the past two sessions from last week’s steep declines after China pumped in billions of dollars into the financial system this week to limit the economic impact of the virus outbreak.

The country’s central bank is likely to lower its key rate on February 20, sources told Reuters, as the death toll from the epidemic climbs to nearly 500.

In early trading, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 321.02 points, or 1.11 per cent, at 29,128.65, the S&P 500 was up 29.45 points, or 0.89 per cent, at 3,327.04.

The Nasdaq Composite was up 62.67 points, or 0.66 per cent, at 9,530.65.

Ten of the 11 major S&P sectors were higher, led by a 2.5 per cent gain in energy stocks, which tracked higher oil prices.

The US earnings season has reached the halfway mark and corporate America has largely beaten Wall Street expectations.

Coty Inc jumped 17.3 per cent as the cosmetics maker beat estimates for quarterly profit and revenue.

Ford Motor Co tumbled 9.4 per cent after the No 2 US automaker delivered a weaker-than-expected 2020 forecast.

Advancing issues outnumbered decliners by a 3.49-to-1 ratio on the NYSE and a 3.03-to-1 ratio on the Nasdaq.

The S&P index recorded 52 new 52-week highs and no new lows while the Nasdaq recorded 97 new highs and nine new lows.