Wall Street Ticks Higher on Alibaba's Blockbuster Debut

Markets Reuters

Wall Street shot to fresh records in midday trade Friday as Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba made its hotly-anticipated public debut on the New York Stock Exchange. Shares opened at $92.70, representing a 36% jump from its IPO price of $68, and making it the biggest U.S. IPO ever.

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Investors also cheered Scottish voters' decision to remain part of the U.K.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 81 points, or 0.5%, to 17349, hitting an intraday record of 17350.64 in early trading. The S&P 500 index rose eight points, or 0.4%, to 2019 and had reached a record of 2019.27. The Nasdaq Composite Index advanced 14 points, or 0.3%, to 4607.

Investors widely embraced Thursday's vote in Scotland that rejected independence from the U.K., snapping up shares of European companies and pushing the British pound to a two-week high against the dollar and a two-year high against the euro.

The Stoxx Europe 600 index climbed 0.5% recently, while the U.K.'s FTSE 100 index gained 0.7%.

"Uncertainty is never good for the market, and now you've removed a layer of uncertainty, so everyone is embracing that," said Michael Antonelli, sales trader at brokerage Robert W. Baird. "The market would have gotten smoked if they had voted 'yes'."

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While the vote heads off thorny economic and political questions over the fate of the U.K., growing confidence in a vote against independence had already boosted markets earlier this week, before the referendum result was known.

"What we're seeing this year is almost every geopolitical risk or news story at best creates short-term volatility," said Doug Cote, chief market strategist at Voya Investment Management.

Meanwhile, investors were also looking ahead to public trading in Alibaba after the e-commerce company priced late Thursday at $68 a share. The company is expected to emerge with an early market value of $168 billion, making it one of the 40 largest companies globally.

Shares are set to begin trading later Friday on the New York Stock Exchange under the ticker symbol BABA.

"Investors are worried about missing this bull market, and strategically and tactically we have corporations doing M&A, IPOs and [private-equity] deals," Mr. Cote said.

Friday's gains extends a strong week for stocks, as investors were encouraged by the Federal Reserve's latest policy statement on Wednesday that signaled plans to keep interest rates low for a long time. The S&P 500 is up 1.6% on the week and 9.2% this year. The economic calendar was light on Friday.

Shares of Yahoo Inc. gained 0.2%. The company is one of Alibaba's biggest stakeholders and is set to earn about $5.1 billion on the IPO as one of the biggest sellers of shares.

Shares of Oracle Corp. fell 4.3% after longtime Chief Executive Larry Allison said late Thursday he would step down from the technology stalwart.

Rite Aid Corp. shares slumped 3.7%, extending a slump after Thursday's loss of 18.5%, after the company reduced its full-year earnings guidance based on expectations for lower pharmacy margins in the second half.

In commodity markets, crude-oil futures fell 0.4% to $92.69 a barrel. Gold futures declined 0.3% to $1222.80 an ounce. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note eased to 2.612% from 2.629% late Thursday.

Josie Cox and Matt Jarzemsky contributed to this article.