Friday was a good day on Wall Street, as the stock market moved higher even in the face of huge challenges. Between the presidential transition in Washington, the COVID-19 pandemic, and tough economic and business conditions throughout much of the world, market participants nevertheless proved to be resilient. The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES:^DJI) climbed almost 400 points, but it was the S&P 500 (SNPINDEX:^GSPC) that found itself at an all-time high.

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Data source: Yahoo! Finance.

Among S&P 500 stocks, there was a lot of excitement about the potential for the U.S. and global economies to rebound completely after the coronavirus crisis is complete. That showed up both in some of the most closely followed industries lately as well as some long-neglected areas.

Some clear winners

In general, thebiggest gains among S&P 500 stocks came from the travel industry. Topping the list were hotels and casinos, with MGM Resorts International (NYSE:MGM) and Host Hotels & Resorts (NASDAQ:HST) leading the way. Wynn Resorts (NASDAQ:WYNN) wasn't too much further behind.

Craps table with chips, stick, and dice.

Image source: Getty Images.

Obviously, the pandemic has been terrible for hotels and resorts. Many people have given up traveling entirely, and even those willing to brave the pandemic have sometimes been thwarted by restrictions on travel and entertainment opportunities. These companies have gotten a sense of what a return to normal might look like in recent months, but the big open question is whether the winter will allow them to gain more momentum or bring back the terrible conditions of the spring.

Elsewhere, cruise ship operators were up across the board, led by a 7% rise for S&P component Carnival (NYSE:CCL). Delta Air Lines (NYSE:DAL) managed to pick up 6% amid growing optimism that air travel might prove safe enough to ease concerns among even more uncertain would-be travelers.

Looking more energetic

What might have come as a bigger surprise was strength in the energy sector. Oil prices were down more than 2%, and crude just barely held above the key $40 per barrel mark.

However, there was a huge pocket of strength in the refining category. Marathon Petroleum (NYSE:MPC), Valero Energy (NYSE:VLO), Phillips 66 (NYSE:PSX), and HollyFrontier (NYSE:HFC) were all up 7% to 8%.

Just as with their views on travel stocks, investors are hopeful that oil refining companies will benefit from rising demand for energy products. Those companies see some direct benefits from selling products like jet fuel to airlines, but the biggest driver is gasoline and diesel fuel, and a full recovery would be extremely helpful for refiners to see conditions in that part of the energy sector get back to normal.

Hope springs eternal

With people having so many things to worry about, the stock market's record close was a welcome surprise for many investors. Plenty of questions remain, but for now, the market seems to be taking a long-term view of the future.

This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium advisory service. We’re motley! Questioning an investing thesis -- even one of our own -- helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer.