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Stocks climb on Wall Street following 2 steep drops

Stock trader Gregory Rowe works at the New York Stock Exchange, Wednesday, Feb. 26, 2020. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)

NEW YORK (AP) — Stocks rose solidly in midday trading Wednesday as investors regained an appetite for risk after two days of heavy losses.

The sharp drops, which wiped out the market’s gains for the year, were brought on by worries over economic fallout from the virus outbreak that originated in China.

The virus continues to spread and threatens to hurt industrial production, consumer spending, and travel. More cases are being reported in Europe and the Middle East. Health officials in the U.S. have been warning Americans to prepare for the virus.

Investors are setting aside some of their concerns for the time being and bid up technology stocks. Microsoft rose 1.5% and Adobe rose 1.8%. The tech sector was among the worst hit by sell-offs this week as many of the companies rely on global sales and supply chains that could be stifled by the spreading outbreak.

Health care companies also climbed. Pfizer rose 2.6%.

Bond prices fell and pushed yields higher. The yield on the 10-year Treasury rose to 1.34% from 1.33% late Tuesday.

TJX, the parent of retailer TJ Maxx, surged 8.2% after beating Wall Street’s fourth-quarter profit forecasts and raising its dividend.

Utilities and real estate companies lagged the market in another sign that investors were shifting away from safe-play stocks.

VIRUS UPDATE: The virus outbreak has now infected more than 81,000 people globally and continues spreading. Brazil has confirmed the first case in Latin America. Germany, France and Spain were among the European nations with growing caseloads. New cases are also being reported in several Middle Eastern nations.

President Donald Trump will hold a news conference later Wednesday, along with representatives from the Centers for Disease Control, to discuss the virus.

KEEPING SCORE: The S&P 500 index rose 1.1% as of 11:45 a.m. Following its two-day drop, it’s still down 6.6% from the record high it reached last Wednesday.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 271 points, or 1%, to 27,354. The Nasdaq rose 1.4%. The Russell 2000 index of smaller company stocks rose 0.6%.

European markets were mixed and Asian markets fell.

MOUSE EXIT: Disney fell 1.8% following Bob Iger’s surprise announcement that he will immediately step down as CEO of the giant entertainment company. Iger steered the company’s absorption of big moneymakers, including Star Wars, Pixar, Marvel and Fox’s entertainment businesses. He also oversaw the launch of the Disney Plus streaming video service.

LINGERING MALADY: Cruise operators and some other companies that depend on travelers continued falling as virus fears persist. Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings fell 3.7% and Expedia lost 2.4%.

BUSTED BUILDER: Toll Brothers fell 11.9% after the homebuilder reported disappointing fiscal first-quarter profit. The poor results initially weighed on some of its rivals, but most of them recovered by midday. A government report Wednesday showed that sales of new homes jumped 7.9% in January to the fastest pace in more than 12 years.