Nasdaq, S&P 500 Reach Record Highs As Stimulus Talks Make Progress

Stocks have moved mostly higher in morning trading on Thursday following the mixed performance seen in the previous session. With the upward move on the day, the Nasdaq and the S&P 500 have reached new record intraday highs.

Currently, the major averages are off their highs of the session but still firmly in positive territory. The Dow is up 138.70 points or 0.5 percent at 30,293.24, the Nasdaq is up 61.35 points or 0.5 percent at 12,719.54 and the S&P 500 is up 13.49 points or 0.4 percent at 3,714.66.

The strength on Wall Street comes amid positive developments on the stimulus front, with lawmakers signaling progress toward an agreement on a new relief package.

Following a meeting with other congressional leaders, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ken., said the talks have made “major headway toward hammering out a targeted pandemic relief package that would be able to pass both chambers with bipartisan majorities.”

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., agreed that the two sides are “close to an agreement” but cautioned that it’s “not a done deal yet.”

Meanwhile, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s Deputy Chief of Staff Drew Hammill said the Speaker, Schumer and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin spoke Wednesday night as part of a series of phone conversations to complete the relief negotiations.

“All three emphasized the urgency to reaching an immediate agreement and will exchange additional paper and resume conversations in the morning,” Hammill said in a post on Twitter.

The positive sentiment was partly offset by a report from the Labor Department showing an unexpected increase in first-time claims for U.S. unemployment benefits in the week ended December 12th.

The report said initial jobless claims rose to 885,000, an increase of 23,000 from the previous week’s revised level of 862,000.

The continued increase surprised economist, who had expected jobless claims to drop to 800,000 from the 853,000 originally reported for the previous week.

With the unexpected increase, jobless claims climbed to their highest level since hitting 893,000 in the week ended September 5th.

However, while the data has raised concerns about the outlook for the labor market, it could also put further pressure on lawmakers to reach an agreement on a stimulus bill.

Gold stocks have moved sharply higher along with the price of the precious metal, with the NYSE Arca Gold Bugs Index soaring by 4.2 percent to its best intraday level in a month.

The rally by gold stocks comes as the price of gold for February delivery is skyrocketing $40.70 to $1,899.80 an ounce amid a drop in the value of the U.S. dollar.

Significant strength has also emerged among housing stocks, as reflected by the 2.9 percent jump by the Philadelphia Housing Sector Index.

The rally by housing stocks comes after the Commerce Department released a report showing housing starts unexpectedly increased in the month of November.

The report also showed building permits, an indicator of future housing demand, spiked much more than expected to a fourteen-year high.

Chemical and utilities stocks are also seeing some strength on the day, while banking stocks have moved to the downside.

In overseas trading, stock markets across the Asia-Pacific region moved mostly higher during trading on Thursday. Japan’s Nikkei 225 Index edged up by 0.2 percent, while China’s Shanghai Composite Index jumped by 1.1 percent.

The major European markets have also moved to the upside on the day. While the U.K.’s FTSE 100 Index is just above the unchanged line, the French CAC 40 Index is up by 0.5 percent and the German DAX Index is up by 0.9 percent.

In the bond market, treasuries have moved higher after ending the previous session nearly unchanged. As a result, the yield on the benchmark ten-year note, which moves opposite of its price, is down by 2.5 basis points at 0.895 percent.

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