U.S. Stocks Continue To See Modest Strength In Afternoon Trading

After showing an early move to the upside, stocks continue to see modest strength in afternoon trading on Thursday. Earlier in the session, the Dow and the S&P 500 reached new record closing highs.

The Dow briefly dipped below the unchanged line in early afternoon trading but is currently up 43.50 points or 0.1 percent at 36,532.13. The Nasdaq is up 87.04 points or 0.6 percent at 15,825.26 and the S&P 500 is up 8.04 points or 0.2 percent at 4,801.10.

The strength on Wall Street partly reflects recent upward momentum, which has helped stocks largely offset the pullback seen in reaction to initial reports about the Omicron variant of the coronavirus.

With early indications that the Omicron variant causes milder symptoms, traders seem optimistic the new strain will not detail the economic recovery.

So-called “window dressing” may also be contributing to the strength on Wall Street, as institutional investors look to boost the value of their portfolios going into the end of the year.

Trading activity remains somewhat subdued, however, as some traders may look to get a head start on New Year’s festivities.

In U.S. economic news, 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 25th.

The report said initial jobless claims dipped to 198,000, a decrease of 8,000 from the previous week’s revised level of 206,000.

The slight pullback surprised economists, who had expected jobless claims to inch up to 208,000 from the 205,000 originally reported for the previous week.

A separate report from MNI Indicators growth in Chicago-area business activity picked back up in the month of December.

MNI Indicators said its Chicago business barometer rose to 63.1 in December from 61.8 in November, with a reading above 50 indicating growth. Economists had expected the business barometer to inch up to 62.0.

Sector News

Airline stocks continue to turn in a strong performance in afternoon trading, with the NYSE Arca Airline Index climbing by 1.2 percent.

Significant strength is also visible among gold stocks, as reflected by the 1.2 percent gain being posted by the NYSE Arca Gold Bugs Index.

The strength in the gold sector comes as the price of gold for February delivery is climbing $8.30 to $1,814.10 an ounce.

Tobacco and steel stocks are also seeing notable strength on the day, while most of the other major sectors are showing more modest moves.

Other Markets

In overseas trading, stock markets across the Asia-Pacific region turned in another mixed performance during trading on Thursday. Japan’s Nikkei 225 Index fell by 0.4 percent, while China’s Shanghai Composite Index rose by 0.6 percent.

The major European markets also turned mixed on the day. While the U.K.’s FTSE 100 Index edged down by 0.2 percent, the French CAC 40 Index and the German DAX Index both crept up by 0.2 percent.

In the bond market, treasuries are seeing modest strength after showing a lack of direction early in the session. As a result, the yield on the benchmark ten-year note, which moves opposite of its price, is down by 1.9 basis points at 1.524 percent.

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