Thursday December 31st


U.S. futures little changed ahead of final day of 2020

U.S. stock index futures were largely flat early Thursday morning as Wall Street prepared for the final day of the year. Futures tied to the Dow Jones Industrial Average slipped 28 points, or 0.1%. Those for the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq 100 were also little changed. The muted move in futures comes at the end of a relatively quiet week on Wall Street, capping a remarkable year for the stock market. Equities fell sharply in February and March as the Covid pandemic spread outside of China. The S&P 500 suffered its most rapid 30% drawdown on record. But after bottoming out in late March, and amid unprecedented action by the Federal Reserve to shore up the credit markets, stocks rebounded dramatically and have ripped off a series of record highs before the end of year. Ahead of the final session of 2020, the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite has gained 43.44% year to date, while the S&P 500 and Dow have risen15.52% and 6.56%, respectively. The latest leg higher for the market has been fueled by the rollout of vaccines and a new economic relief package from Congress, though Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has blocked efforts to increase the amount of direct stimulus payments to $2,000 from $600. A rising worry in recent weeks is a new strain of the deadly virus that was first identified in the UK and has been confirmed in Colorado and California. UK officials have said the strain appears to be more contagious than earlier versions of the virus. However, experts and health policy leaders have said that the existing vaccines should be effective against the new strain. Some have also said that companies should be able to adjust the vaccines to work against new strains if that is necessary. “With the flu vaccines, we actually have mutations occurring within the seasons and companies adjusting to that. So while I don’t want to downplay the seriousness of these mutant strains that are current with Covid-19, I think this is an area where we have a lot of expertise in, in industry and in science, and I think we’ll be able to tackle it,” Hartaj Singh, a biotechnology analyst at Oppenheimer, said on CNBC’s “Closing Bell.” Investors will get a key piece of economic data on Thursday morning with the latest report on initial jobless claims. Economists surveyed by Dow Jones are expecting 828,000 initial claims, which would be a slight increase from the previous reading and still dramatically higher than before the pandemic. Shares in Asia-Pacific were mixed on Thursday, as multiple markets in the region closed early for New Year’s Eve. Mainland Chinese stocks surged on the day: the Shanghai composite climbed 1.72% to 3,473.07 while the Shenzhen component gained 1.895% to 14,470.68. The Hang Seng index in Hong Kong advanced 0.31% to 27,231.13. Global crude oil markets have lost about a fifth of their value in 2020 as strict coronavirus lockdowns paralyzed much of the global economy, but prices have rebounded strongly from their lows as governments rolled out more stimulus. On Thursday, the last trading day of 2020, Brent was trading down 40 cents, or 0.77%, at $51.24 a barrel. U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) lost 0.72%, or 35 cents, to trade at $48.05 per barrel. Brent and WTI have more than doubled from decade-lows seen in April, putting past a year which marked the first negative prices for WTI that shocked investors globally. Gold prices were little changed in holiday-thinned trade on Thursday, but the yellow metal was en route to register its best annual performance in a decade. Spot gold was almost flat at $1,893.84 per ounce, but was up more than 24% for the year, its best since 2010. U.S. gold futures were up 0.3% to $1,898.70.