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S&P 500, Nasdaq Set to Hit New Highs on Treatment Hopes

* Apple extends rally, set to cross $500 per share

* Four-day Republican National Convention set to begin

* Futures up: Dow 0.98%, S&P 0.85%, Nasdaq 1.02% (Adds comment, updates prices)

By Medha Singh

Aug 24 (Reuters) - The S&P 500 and Nasdaq were set to open at record highs on Monday after the U.S. health regulator approved the emergency use of blood plasma in COVID-19 patients and on report the Trump administration may fast-track a vaccine candidate.

The moves come ahead of the Republican National Convention, where President Donald Trump will be nominated to lead his party for four more years, kicking off the final sprint to Nov. 3 Election Day.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s decision to use antibody-rich plasma from recovered patients was hailed by Trump and came a day after he accused it of impeding the rollout of treatments for political reasons.

The World Health Organization, however, was cautious about endorsing the treatment, citing “low quality” evidence that it works.

Further aiding sentiment was a report the Trump administration is considering fast-tracking an experimental COVID-19 vaccine being developed by AstraZeneca Plc and Oxford University for use in the United States before election.

“Everyone is focused on the same thing and that’s eradicating the virus, whether it’s through treatment, but preferably from vaccines,” said Thomas Hayes, managing member at Great Hill Capital LLC in New York.

“That is the key to unlocking the economy because all the stimulus aid and liquidity is there. We just have to enable people to get back to normalcy and the global economy can boom.”

Heavyweight Apple Inc gained 3.4% premarket and was set to cross $500 per share for the first time after becoming the first public U.S. company to top $2 trillion in market value last week.

The S&P 500 and Nasdaq closed at record levels on Friday, wrapping up four weeks of gains on bets that technology focused companies will emerge stronger from the pandemic and the economy will return to growth on continued monetary and fiscal support.

The Dow, however, is still about 6% below its February peak.

Meanwhile, the next phase of coronavirus government aid remained elusive as top Democrats and Republicans continued to blame each other for stalled talks on the legislation.

A key event this week would be the address by Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell at the Kansas City Fed Jackson Hole symposium, where he will talk on the monetary policy framework review.

At 8:20 a.m. ET, Dow e-minis were up 272 points, or 0.98%, S&P 500 e-minis were up 29 points, or 0.85% and Nasdaq 100 e-minis were up 117.5 points, or 1.02%.

(Reporting by Medha Singh and Devik Jain in Bengaluru; Editing by Arun Koyyur)

Source: Reuters

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