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Wall Street ends higher on stimulus hopes

Herbert Lash
·3-min read

Wall Street has scaled new highs as hopes of more stimulus from Washington were shaken a bit by a senator's comments but later bolstered after US President-elect Joe Biden said his economic package will be in the trillions of dollars.

The latest rally in the Dow, S&P 500 and Nasdaq overcame labour market data early on Friday that showed the US economy shed jobs for the first time in eight months in December as the country buckled under the COVID-19 onslaught.

But late in the session, the S&P retreated slightly from a its most recent peak following a report that Democratic US Senator Joe Manchin opposed bigger direct cheques before addressing the coronavirus pandemic.

The remarks unsettled investors who expect further stimulus payments.

"It's amazing how sensitive we are to the slightest tweaking of when and how big the stimulus will be," said Ed Moya, senior market analyst at OANDA in New York.

"Stocks are going to start to price in a bigger economic relief package from the Biden administration," Moya said.

"That is going to continue to be the driver on equities."

Biden said his administration's economic package will also include unemployment insurance and rent forbearance. The package will be unveiled next Thursday, he said.

"It is necessary to spend the money now," Biden told reporters. "The answer is 'yes,' it will be in the trillions of dollars, an entire package."

Positive vaccine data and expectations of a bigger fiscal package and infrastructure spending under a Democratic-led US Congress have pushed the S&P 500 above 3800 points for the first time, and set all three major indexes on track for weekly gains.

The Democrats are going to want to inject a lot of stimulus and spending into the economy, which in the near term will be good for economic growth, said Ross Mayfield, investment strategy analyst at Baird.

"The market is pleased with the result," he said.

Some Wall Street analysts expect an equity pullback in the near-term as exuberance from unprecedented monetary and fiscal stimulus has led to a "frothy" market.

But a resumption in consumer spending, together with the restocking of business inventories as COVID-19 restrictions ease, should lift economic activity in 2021, Jeff Schulze, investment strategist at ClearBridge Investments said in a note.

Economy-linked financials, materials and industrials, which have outperformed their peers and scaled record levels this week, dropped more than one per cent at one point during the session.

Market participants looked past a report that congressional Democrats plan to introduce articles of impeachment against US President Donald Trump on Monday, after a violent crowd of his supporters stormed the US Capitol on Wednesday.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 56.84 points, or 0.18 per cent, to 31,097.97. The S&P 500 gained 20.89 points, or 0.55 per cent, to 3824.68 and the Nasdaq Composite added 134.50 points, or 1.03 per cent, to 13,201.98.

Volume on US exchanges was 14.40 billion shares.

The S&P 500 closed above 3800 points for the first time on Thursday, while the Dow and the Nasdaq posted their fourth straight weekly gains.

For the week, the S&P rose 1.83 per cent, the Dow added 1.61 per cent and the Nasdaq gained 2.43 per cent

Electric car-maker Tesla jumped 7.8 per cent, taking its market capitalisation to more than $US800 billion for the first time ever. Tesla was the largest percentage gainer on the S&P.

US-listed shares of Baidu gained 15.6 per cent on plans to form a company to make smart electric vehicles, according to two sources familiar with the matter. Baidu was the largest gainer on the Nasdaq 100.

Advancing issues outnumbered declining ones on the NYSE by a 1.10-to-1 ratio; on Nasdaq, a 1.07-to-1 ratio favoured advancers.

The S&P 500 posted 84 new 52-week highs and no new lows; the Nasdaq Composite recorded 309 new highs and five new lows.