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US stocks close at record highs as Omicron fears ease going into holiday break

  • The S&P 500 ended at a record high Thursday as investors headed out for Christmas break. 
  • Investors have set aside worries about rising Omicron cases over the past three sessions. 
  • Thursday’s data included weekly jobless claims holding steady at 205,000.

US stocks finished higher Thursday, with the S&P 500 closing at a record high before the Christmas break after investors sifted through a big batch of economic data that included weekly jobless claims holding steady as the Omicron variant spreads. 

Stocks notched three straight days of gains. Industrials led 10 of 11 sectors tracked on the S&P 500 and nearly all of the members of the Dow Jones Industrial Average ended higher. Following a sell-off last week, stocks have switched into recovery mode on signs the world’s largest economy will be able to avoid mass shutdowns because of the new Omicron strain of coronavirus. 

New coronavirus case counts in the US have risen by nearly 53% over the week, reaching 243,817 on Wednesday,  according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

“Although the Omicron variant is highly transmissible, we believe that the market impact will continue to be tepid – and possibly even quite positive if it acts as a sort of “stealth vax” by providing antibodies at very low ‘cost’ given its mild nature,” Scott Ladner, chief investment strategist at Horizon Investments, told Insider in a note Thursday. 

“Despite exponential growth in cases in the UK & South Africa, hospitalizations & mortality remain unchanged relative to previous waves. Barring any kind of restrictions that impede economic activity, markets will likely look through this uptick in cases,” he said. 

Here’s where US indexes stood at 4:00 p.m. on Thursday:   

  • S&P 5004,725.80, up 0.62% 
  • Dow Jones Industrial Average35,950.63, up 0.55% (196.74 points)
  • Nasdaq Composite15,653.37, up 0.85% 

Among Thursday’s data, jobless claims were largely unchanged from last week at 205,000, and the Commerce Department said consumer spending rose by 0.6% in November, although that was slower than October’s growth rate of 1.4%. 

Meanwhile, the Federal Reserve’s preferred measure of inflation rose by more than expected. The core PCE price index rose 0.5% month-over-month in November, higher than expectations of a monthly rise of 0.4%. The 12-month inflation rate of 4.7% was above expectations of 4.5%

Around the markets, Elon Musk sold more Tesla shares for $15.4 billion in total, saying there are still a few more shares to go.

Chamath Palihapitiya’s four blockbuster SPAC mergers have tumbled 32% this year as investors ditch flashy growth stocks.

The Bored Ape Yacht Club collection of NFTs topped CryptoPunks for the first time on a key price metric. 

Oil prices rose. West Texas Intermediate crude moved up 1.4% to $73.79 per barrel. Brent crude, the international benchmark, climbed 2% to $76.79.

Gold picked up 0.4% to $1,810.10 per ounce. The 10-year yield rose 4 basis points to 1.495%. 

Bitcoin advanced by 4% to $51,046.17.

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Wall Street May Show A Lack Of Direction In Early Trading

Following the volatility seen over the past few sessions, stocks may turn in a relatively lackluster performance in early trading on Wednesday. The major index futures are currently pointing to a roughly flat open for the markets, with the Dow futures down by just 7 points.

Uncertainty about the near-term outlook for the markets may keep some traders on the sidelines following the strong rebound seen in the previous session.

The rebound during trading on Tuesday came on the heels of a three-day losing streak that dragged the tech-heavy Nasdaq down to its lowest closing level in over two months.

Some traders may also look to get a head start on the holiday weekend, as the markets will be closed for Christmas Eve on Friday.

In U.S. economic news, the Commerce Department released a report showing gross domestic product increased by more than previously estimated in the third quarter of 2021.

The report said real GDP surged by 2.3 percent in the third quarter, reflecting an upward revision from the previously estimated 2.1 percent jump. Economists had expected the pace of GDP growth to be unrevised.

Not long after the start of trading, the National Association of Realtors is scheduled to release its report on existing home sales in the month of November.

Existing home sales are expected to jump 2.8 percent to an annual rate of 6.52 million in November from a rate of 6.34 million in October.

The Conference Board is also due to release its report on consumer confidence in the month of December. The consumer confidence index is expected to inch up to 110.7 in December from 109.5 in November.

Among individual stocks, shares of CalAmp (CAMP) are moving sharply lower in pre-market trading after the wireless communications company reported an unexpected fiscal third quarter loss on revenues that missed analyst estimates.

Chinese e-commerce company Alibaba (BABA) may also come under pressure after Atlantic Equities downgraded its rating on the company’s stock to Neutral from Overweight.

On the other hand, shares of CarMax (KMX) are likely to see initial strength after the auto retailer reported fiscal third quarter results that exceeded analyst estimates on both the top and bottom lines.

Household products retailer Williams-Sonoma (WSM) may also move to the upside after Loop Capital upgraded its rating on the company’s stock to Buy from Hold.

After ending Monday’s trading sharply lower, stocks showed a substantial move back to the upside during trading on Tuesday. The major averages moved higher in early trading and climbed more firmly into positive territory as the day progressed.

The major averages reached new highs for the session going into the close. The Dow surged 560.54 points or 1.6 percent to 35,492.70, the Nasdaq spiked 360.14 points or 2.4 percent to 15,341.09 and the S&P 500 jumped 81.21 points or 1.8 percent to 4,649.23.

In overseas trading, stock markets across the Asia-Pacific region moved mostly higher during trading on Wednesday. Japan’s Nikkei 225 Index edged up by 0.2 percent, while Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index climbed by 0.6 percent.

Meanwhile, the major European markets are turning in a lackluster performance on the day. The U.K.’s FTSE 100 Index, the French CAC 40 Index and the German DAX Index are currently all nearly unchanged.

In commodities trading, crude oil futures are inching up $0.16 to $71.28 a barrel after spiking $2.51 to $71.12 a barrel a barrel on Tuesday. Meanwhile, an ounce of gold is trading at $1,791.80, up $3.10 compared to the previous session’s close of $1,788.70. On Tuesday, gold fell $5.90.

On the currency front, the U.S. dollar is trading at 114.22 yen compared to the 114.10 yen it fetched at the close of New York trading on Tuesday. Against the euro, the dollar is trading at $1.1305 compared to yesterday’s $1.1285.