U.S. Stocks Nearly Flat As 2020 Draws To A Close

Stocks have shown a lack of direction over the course of morning trading on Thursday following the uptick seen in the previous session. The major averages have spent the morning bouncing back and forth across the unchanged line.

Currently, the major averages are nearly flat. While the S&P 500 is up 0.87 points or less than 0.1 percent at 3,732.91, the Dow is down 8.14 points or less than 0.1 percent at 30,401.42 and the Nasdaq is down 14.81 points or 0.1 percent at 12,855.19.

The choppy trading on Wall Street comes as traders seem reluctant to make significant moves on the final trading day of the year, with some likely looking to get a head start on New Year’s Eve celebrations.

Even with the lackluster session, the major averages are poised to post strong gains for 2020 despite the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Year-to-date, the Dow has jumped by 6.6 percent and the S&P 500 has surged up by 15.5 percent, while the tech-heavy Nasdaq has skyrocketed 43.4 percent.

The substantial gain by the Nasdaq comes as tech stocks benefited from the stay-at-home orders issued in response to the spread of the deadly coronavirus.

Most other sectors have also recovered from the sell-off seen as lockdowns were imposed, with optimism about a swift economic rebound driving the markets higher even as the death toll spikes.

On the economic front, 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 26th.

The Labor Department said initial jobless claims edged down to 787,000, a decrease of 19,000 from the previous week’s revised level of 806,000.

The dip surprised economists, who had expected jobless claims to rise to 833,000 from the 803,000 originally reported for the previous month.

“We think that holiday noise and uncertainty about extensions of benefits may have held down claims last week,” said Nancy Vanden Houten, Lead U.S. Economist at Oxford Economics.

She added, “The risk is for a rise in claims in the weeks ahead now that emergency programs have been extended and an additional $300 in weekly benefits is being provided.”

Most of the major sectors are showing only modest moves on the day, contributing to the lackluster performance by the broader markets.

Gold stocks have shown a significant move to the downside, however, with the NYSE Arca Gold Bugs Index falling by 1.7 percent.

The weakness among gold stocks comes despite an increase by the price of the precious metal, as gold for February delivery is climbing $8.70 to $1,902.10 an ounce.

Biotechnology and housing stocks have also moved to the downside on the day, while some strength is visible among computer hardware stocks.

In overseas trading, stock markets across the Asia-Pacific region turned in another performance on Thursday, with several markets closed for New Year’s Eve. China’s Shanghai Composite Index surged up by 1.7 percent, while Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 Index tumbled by 1.4 percent.

Meanwhile, the major European markets moved sharply lower in an abbreviated session, with the German markets closed on the day. While the U.K.’s FTSE 100 Index plunged by 1.5 percent, the French CAC 40 Index slumped by 0.9 percent.

In the bond market, treasuries have moved slightly higher, extending the uptick seen in the previous session. Subsequently, the yield on the benchmark ten-year note, which moves opposite of its price, is down by nearly a basis point at 0.918 percent.

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