After ending the previous session modestly higher, stocks are likely to show a lack of direction in early trading on Thursday. The major index futures are currently pointing to a roughly flat open for the markets, with the Dow futures down by just 20 points.
Traders may be reluctant to make significant moves on the final trading day of the year, with some likely to look to get a head start on New Year’s Eve celebrations.
Even with a lackluster session, the major averages are poised to post strong gains for 2020 despite the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
Year-to-date, the Dow has jumped by 6.6 percent and the S&P 500 has surged up by 15.5 percent, while the tech-heavy Nasdaq has skyrocketed 43.4 percent.
The substantial gain by the Nasdaq comes as tech stocks benefited from the stay-at-home orders issued in response to the spread of the deadly coronavirus.
Most other sectors have also recovered from the sell-off seen as lockdowns were imposed, with optimism about a swift economic rebound driving the markets higher even as the death toll spikes.
Adding to the positive sentiment, the Labor Department released a report unexpectedly showing a modest drop in first-time claims for U.S. unemployment benefits in the week ended December 26th.
The Labor Department said initial jobless claims edged down to 787,000, a decrease of 19,000 from the previous week’s revised level of 806,000.
The dip surprised economists, who had expected jobless claims to rise to 833,000 from the 803,000 originally reported for the previous month.
After an early move to the upside, stocks gave back some ground over the course of the trading session on Wednesday but managed to end the day modestly higher. With the uptick on the day, the Dow reached a new record closing high.
The Dow rose by nearly 190 points in morning trading but ended the session up just 73.89 points or 0.2 percent at 30,409.56. The Nasdaq edged up 19.78 points or 0.2 percent to 12,870.00 and the S&P 500 inched up 5.00 points or 0.1 percent to 3,732.04.
In overseas trading, stock markets across the Asia-Pacific region turned in another performance on Thursday, with several markets closed for New Year’s Eve. China’s Shanghai Composite Index surged up by 1.7 percent, while Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 Index tumbled by 1.4 percent.
Meanwhile, the major European markets have moved sharply lower, with the German markets closed on the day. While the U.K.’s FTSE 100 Index has plunged by 1.5 percent, the French CAC 40 Index has slumped by 0.9 percent.
In commodities trading, crude oil futures are falling $0.47 to $47.93 a barrel after rising $0.40 to $48.40 a barrel on Wednesday. Meanwhile, after climbing $10.50 to $1,893.40 an ounce in the previous session, gold futures are advancing $8.30 to $1,901.70 an ounce.
On the currency front, the U.S. dollar is trading at 103.07 yen versus the 103.19 yen it fetched at the close of New York trading on Wednesday. Against the euro, the dollar is valued at $1.2283 compared to yesterday’s $1.2298.
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