Stocks trade higher on stimulus talks, remain near records
NEW YORK (AP) — Stocks rose in late morning as investors remain optimistic that Washington will deliver another round of financial support for the economy as vaccines begin slowly rolling out to the public.
The S&P 500 rose 0.4% Thursday, hovering above its record high. The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 126 points, or 0.4%, to 30,278 as of 10:55 a.m. Eastern time. The Nasdaq gained 0.5%.
Wall Street has been more hopeful that Congress is getting closer to striking a deal that will give a financial lifeline to people and businesses. Democrats and Republicans have been locked in a partisan fight over the size and scope of any additional package, just as the economic recovery shows signs of stalling amid a surge in virus cases.
The Labor Department, in another worrisome sign, reported that the number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits rose to 885,000 last week, the most since September. Unemployment has been edging higher and retail sales have been hurt as tighter restrictions squeeze people and businesses.
Investors received more encouragement from the Federal Reserve, which helped shore up the markets early in the pandemic. The central bank has again pledged to keep buying bonds until the economy makes substantial progress. Still, the Fed has said it can only do so much to tide over the economy and that more financial support from Washington is critical for a continued recovery.
Home builders also rose following news from the Commerce Department that showed building permits and housing construction starts rose in November, despite the winter weather and pandemic. Lennar Corp. was up 7.2%, Pulte Group was up 4.8% and D.R. Horton was up 3.5%.
The gains on Thursday were broad and came from nearly every sector in the S&P 500, with the exception of the energy and telecommunications services. More conservative investments like consumer staples and utilities were the biggest gainers in the market.
The yield on the 10-year Treasury remained steady at 0.90% from late Wednesday.
European markets were mostly higher. Germany’s DAX rose 0.8% and France’s CAC 40 gained 0.3%. The FTSE 100 in London fell 0.1%. Asian markets were also mostly higher.