S&P 500 Reaches Record Closing High Going Into Holiday Weekend

Stocks moved mostly higher during trading on Thursday, extending the strong upward move seen over the two previous sessions. With the continued advance, the S&P 500 ended the session at a new record closing high.

The major averages pulled back off their best levels going into the close but remained firmly positive. The Dow climbed 196.67 points or 0.6 percent to 35,950.56, the Nasdaq advanced 131.48 points or 0.9 percent to 15,653.37 and the S&P 500 rose 29.23 points or 0.6 percent to 4,725.79.

For the holiday-shortened week, the Nasdaq spiked by 3.2 percent, the S&P 500 surged up by 2.3 percent and the Dow jumped by 1.7 percent.

Easing concerns about the Omicron variant of the coronavirus contributed to the continued strength on Wall Street, as separate studies have indicated the new strain poses a lower risk of severe disease and hospitalization than the Delta variant.

However, experts such as the World Health Organization have cautioned that it is too early to draw conclusions on the new variant’s severity.

Traders were also reacting to a slew of U.S. economic data, including reports on weekly jobless claims, durable goods orders and personal income and spending.

The Labor Department released a report before the start of trading showing first-time claims for U.S. unemployment benefits came in flat in the week ended December 18th.

The report said initial jobless claims were unchanged from the previous week’s revised level of 205,000. Economists had expected jobless claims to edge down to 205,000 from the 206,000 originally reported for the previous week.

A separate report released by the Commerce Department showed new orders for U.S. manufactured durable goods spiked much more than expected in the month of November.

The Commerce Department said durable goods orders surged up by 2.5 percent in November following a revised 0.1 percent uptick in October.

Economists expected durable goods orders to jump by 1.6 percent compared to the 0.4 percent drop that had been reported for the previous month.

Excluding a sharp increase in orders for transportation equipment, durable goods orders climbed by 0.8 percent in November after rising by 0.3 percent in October. Ex-transportation orders were expected to increase by 0.6 percent.

Meanwhile, the Commerce Department also released a report showing a continued acceleration in the pace of core consumer price growth.

A reading on inflation said to be preferred by the Federal Reserve showed the annual rate of core consumer price growth accelerated to 4.7 percent in November from 4.2 percent in October.

The annual rate of core consumer price growth exceeded the 4.5 percent expected by economists, reaching the highest level since 1989.

The data was included as part of a report showing personal income and spending both increased in line with economist estimates in November.

Another Commerce Department report showed new home sales skyrocketed in the month of November, although the sharp increase came from a substantially downwardly revised level in October.

Sector News

Tobacco stocks skyrocketed over the course of the session, driving the NYSE Arca Tobacco Index up by 4.1 percent to its best closing level in a month.

22nd Century Group (XXII) led the sector higher, soaring by 38.6 percent after the FDA authorized the marketing of the company’s VLN King and VLN Menthol King reduced nicotine content cigarettes as a modified risk tobacco product.

Significant strength was also visible among transportation stocks, as reflected by the 1.4 percent gain posted by the Dow Jones Transportation Average.

Networking stocks also turned in a strong performance on the day, with the NYSE Arca Networking Index climbing by 1.1 percent to a new record closing high.

Semiconductor, chemical and brokerage stocks also saw notable strength, moving higher along with most of the other major sectors.

Other Markets

In overseas trading, stock markets across the Asia-Pacific region moved mostly higher during trading on Thursday. Japan’s Nikkei 225 Index advanced by 0.8 percent, while China’s Shanghai Composite Index rose by 0.6 percent.

The major European markets also moved to the upside on the day. While the German DAX Index jumped by 1 percent, the French CAC 40 Index climbed by 0.8 percent and the U.K.’s FTSE 100 Index increased by 0.4 percent.

In the bond market, treasuries moved lower following the slew of U.S. economic data. As a result, the yield on the benchmark ten-year note, which moves opposite of its price, rose by 3.6 basis points to 1.493 percent.

Looking Ahead

A light economic calendar may lead to below average trading activity next week, although traders may still look to make some year-end moves.

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