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All three major indexes were up Thursday morning, building on back-to-back sessions of gains as fears the Omicron variant would derail economic growth cooled among investors who sold-off risky assets at the start of the week on reports of swelling case numbers.
The Dow Industrial Average was up 200 points in early trading, while the S&P 500 and Nasdaq also edged higher.
Investors are weighing a trove of economic releases this morning. The Labor Department reported that initial jobless claims totaled 205,000, sustaining a downward trend from the highs of their pandemic peak and reflecting labor market tightness brought on by a demand for workers heading into the new year. The latest print brings the four-week moving average for new claims to its lowest in 52 years, ticking up by 2,750 week-over-week to reach 206,250.
November sales of new U.S. homes jumped 12.4% to a seven-month high of 744,000, buoyed by low mortgage rates and higher demand in the housing industry.
U.S. durable goods orders rose by 2.5% in November, up from the prior month, boosted by a sharp rise in aircraft orders.
Meanwhile, U.S. consumer prices accelerated at the fastest pace in nearly four decades as shoppers confront rising inflation levels ahead of the holidays.
Merck (MRK) received authorization from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for its at-home COVID-19 drug, just one day after Pfizer (PFE) was also approved for use of its own treatment.
The pill developed by Merck in conjunction with Ridgeback Biotherapeutics, called molnupiravir, was shown to reduce hospitalizations and deaths by around 30% in clinical trial data. Pfizer’s pill was reported to be 90% effective at preventing hospitalizations and deaths in high-risk patients.
Shares of Merck were down 0.54% in early trading at $75.75 a piece, while Pfizer’s stock was $59.50 per share, down 0.08%.
In Wednesday’s trading session, investors weighed an upbeat print on consumer confidence levels and the release of an upwardly revised estimate for domestic GDP, placing all three major averages in the green after a mixed open.
The Conference Board reported consumer confidence increased by a greater-than-expected margin in December, with the headline index at 115.8 during the month and higher than Bloomberg’s consensus estimates of 111.0. In November, the index had a reading of 111.9, revised from an initial report of 109.5. Meanwhile, the nation’s gross domestic product grew at an annual rate of 2.3% in the third quarter in the final estimate from the Bureau of Economic Analysis after the initial report of 2.1%.
“We’ve been saying that this is definitely a buy the dip sort of market because we expect more earnings upgrades to come,” Anik Sen, PineBridge Investments global head of equities told Yahoo Finance Live. “We think that the real debate should be about the length and strength of the economic cycle ahead.”
The clock is also ticking on a year-end Santa Claus Rally — one in which stocks climb higher in the final seven trading sessions of a year, plus the first two trading days of the new year. Starting tomorrow, traders will see whether 92 years of data uphold.
For reasons unclear, over the past 92 years, the S&P 500 gained 77% of the time during the year-end rally period, according to data from Sundial Capital Research. The average gain in this nine-day trading period tallied 2.66%.
Separately, Oppenheimer chief investment strategist John Stoltzfus disclosed the most bullish price target on the S&P 500, forecasting a 14% climb to 5,330 by the end of 2022. The 38-year Wall Street veteran’s estimate beats even the most optimistic of his peers, BMO Capital Markets’s Brian Belski, who projected S&P 500 5,300.
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