Optimism About More Stimulus Leads To Strength On Wall Street

Stocks fluctuated over the course of the trading session on Friday but managed to end the day mostly higher. With the upward move on the day, the major averages all finished the session at new record closing highs.

The major averages all closed in positive territory, with the tech-heavy Nasdaq showing a notable advance. While the Nasdaq jumped 134.50 points or 1 percent to 13,201.98, the Dow rose 56.84 points or 0.2 percent to 31,097.97 and the S&P 500 climbed 20.89 points or 0.6 percent to 3,824.68.

For the first trading week of the New Year, the Nasdaq surged up by 2.4 percent, while the S&P 500 and the Dow jumped by 1.6 percent and 1.8 percent, respectively.

The markets benefited from optimism that a Democrat-controlled government will lead to more fiscal stimulus and a better handling of the coronavirus vaccine rollout.

In a statement on Thursday, President Donald Trump finally acknowledged “a new administration will be inaugurated on January 20th,” although he declined to mention President-elect Joe Biden by name.

Trump has repeatedly refused to accept the outcome of the election, spouting fraudulent claims of widespread voter fraud that inspired his supporters to assault the U.S. Capitol building on Wednesday.

Traders seem hopeful for a return to normalcy, as Democrats will control both houses of congress and the White House but do not have the margin in the Senate to force through radical legislation.

Traders were also reacting to a closely watched Labor Department report showing an unexpected decrease in U.S. employment in the month of December.

The Labor Department said non-farm payroll employment fell by 140,000 jobs in December after climbing by an upwardly revised 336,000 jobs in November.

The decline surprised economists, who had expected employment to increase by about 71,000 jobs compared to the addition of 245,000 jobs originally reported for the previous month.

Employment decreased for the first time since April as the recent surge in coronavirus cases led to a nosedive in employment in the leisure and hospitality sector, which lost 498,000 jobs.

Traders have recently been looking on the bright side of almost every piece of news and may see the weak jobs data as more ammunition for Democrats to pursue additional stimulus.

Sector News

Despite the advance by the broader markets, most of the major sectors finished the session showing relatively modest moves.

Gold stocks showed a substantial move to the downside on the day, however, with the NYSE Arca Gold Bugs Index plunging by 5 percent.

The sell-off by gold stocks came amid a steep drop by the price of the precious metal, as gold for February delivery plummeted $78.20 to $1,835.40 an ounce.

Significant weakness was also visible among tobacco stocks, resulting in a 2.3 percent slump by the NYSE Arca Tobacco Index. The index ended the previous session at its best closing level in well over a year.

Housing and natural gas stocks also saw notable weakness on the day, while strength was visible among software and commercial real estate stocks.

Other Markets

In overseas trading, stock markets across the Asia-Pacific region moved mostly higher during trading on Friday. Japan’s Nikkei 225 Index surged up by 2.4 percent, while South Korea’s Kospi skyrocketed by 4 percent.

The major European markets also moved to the upside on the day. While the U.K.’s FTSE 100 Index edged up by 0.2 percent, the German DAX Index and the French CAC 40 Index climbed by 0.6 percent and 0.7 percent, respectively.

In the bond market, treasuries extended the notable decline seen over the past several sessions. As a result, the yield on the benchmark ten-year note, which moves opposite of its price, rose by 3.4 basis points to 1.105 percent.

Looking Ahead

Next week’s economic calendar starts off relatively light, although reports on consumer and producer prices, retail sales, industrial production and consumer sentiment are likely to attract attention later in the week.

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