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Market Snapshot: S&P 500 hints at a run toward all-time highs as futures rise in final session before Christmas

U.S. stock futures point to gains for Thursday, which marks the last trading session of the week. Jobless claims and durable goods orders are ahead. Read More...

U.S. stock futures indicated modest gains for the final session of the week, amid continued optimism that global economies won’t be derailed over the Omicron coronavirus variant.

Investors must get through a big batch of data before the long Christmas weekend can begin, however.

How are stock-index futures trading?

On Wednesday, the S&P 500 SPX, +1.02% closed up 1% at 4,696.56, the Dow Jones Industrial Average DJIA, +0.74% rose 261.19 points, or 0.7%, to 35,753.89, while the Nasdaq Composite COMP, +1.18% climbed 1.2% to finish at 15,521.89. For the week, so far, the Dow is up 1.1%, the S&P 500 is up 1.6%, while the Nasdaq has climbed 2.3%.

What’s driving markets?

Futures indicated the S&P 500 could open just a short distance away — 0.33% — from an all-time closing and 52-week high of 4712.02 reached Dec. 10. But traders are likely to see thinner conditions ahead of the long holiday weekend, with Wall Street closed on Friday, Christmas Eve.

The next week will see business as usual, albeit in likely continued thin trading. U.S. markets won’t close either Friday, Dec. 31, or Monday, Jan. 3, 2022, in observation of the New Year’s holiday, though other global markets will.

Read: Is the stock market open on Christmas Eve? New Year’s Eve? Here are the coming holiday trading hours.

Wednesday saw investors cheered by upbeat economic data and upbeat headlines on the omicron variant, which President Joe Biden has pledged to fight with an arsenal of measures. Adding to the positive newsflow, AstraZeneca AZN, +2.00% AZN, -0.03% said Thursday that its COVID-19 booster shot was effective against the highly contagious variant, in a lab study.

A pair of U.K. studies released Wednesday also showed the omicron variant may be milder than the delta one, while South African medical experts have suggested the surge in cases may have peaked, with fewer hospitalizations and severe illness.

“The caveat here is that even if omicron is less dangerous, the fact that it is so much more transmissible means that health services are still at risk of being overwhelmed by the surge in new infections. But hopes are high that the fast rollout of booster jabs in many countries will keep hospitalization rates manageable, avoiding the need for tough or prolonged lockdowns,” said Raffi Boyadjian, lead investment analyst at XM, in a note to clients.

“With central banks such as the Fed slowly turning off the stimulus taps and President Biden’s $1.75 trillion spending bill hanging in the balance, it probably won’t take much to spark another panic in the markets. But for now, stocks globally are enjoying another positive day, led by strong gains in Asia and a solid open in Europe,” he added.

The biggest data dump before the end of the year is due Thursday, with weekly jobless claims, personal spending and core inflation and durable goods orders, all for November, due at 8:30 a.m. Eastern Time. Following that will be new-home sales for November and the final University of Michigan consumer sentiment index for December.

How are other assets trading?
  • The yield on the 10-year Treasury note TMUBMUSD10Y, 1.473% rose 1 basis point to 1.462%. Yields and debt prices move opposite each other.
  • The ICE U.S. Dollar Index DXY, +0.01%, a measure of the currency against a basket of six major rivals, was up 0.4%.
  • Oil futures slipped, with the U.S. benchmark CL00, +0.29% down .2% to $72.58 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange, while gold futures GC00, +0.21% rose 0.3% to $1,807.60.
  • Bitcoin BTCUSD, -1.54% fell 1.6% to $48,264
  • The Stoxx Europe 600 index SXXP, +0.59% rose 0.2% and London’s FTSE 100 UKX, +0.25% was unchanged.
  • The Shanghai Composite SHCOMP, +0.57% rose 0.5%, while the Hang Seng Index HSI, +0.40% gained 0.3% and Japan’s Nikkei 225 NIK, +0.83% jumped 0.8%.

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