U.S. stock index futures inched higher in early morning trading on Thursday after the S&P 500 and Dow Jones Industrial Average closed at new records.
Futures contracts tied to the Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 50 points while S&P 500 futures rose 0.2% and Nasdaq 100 futures both rose 0.3%.
Investors will get their latest look at the employment picture when the Labor Department reports on weekly jobless claims at 8:30 a.m. ET. Economists surveyed by Dow Jones expect initial claims to total 205,000 for the week ended Dec. 25, the same total as the prior period. That would keep claims around their lowest level in more than 50 years.
During regular trading on Wednesday the S&P 500 advanced 0.14% to its 70th record close of the year. This is the second highest number of record closes for the benchmark index during a calendar year, trailing just 1995’s 77 record closing highs.
The Dow rose 90 points, or 0.25%, to also close at a record — its first since November. The 30-stock benchmark saw its sixth straight positive session. The Nasdaq Composite, however, declined 0.1%. Chip stocks came under pressure, with AMD, Xilinx and Nvidia all declining at least 1%.
Travel-related stocks also slid amid ongoing Covid-19 concerns, with the NYSE Arca Airline Index dipping 2.5%.
On the flip side, a number of consumer stocks rose to new all-time highs during the session, including Domino’s Pizza, McDonald’s, Yum Brands, Costco and Procter & Gamble.
All three major averages are in the green for December. The S&P and Dow are on pace for a second positive month in the last three, while the Nasdaq Composite is on track for a third straight month of gains.
Wednesday’s upward action for the Dow and S&P continued a historically strong period for stocks, which has been dubbed the “Santa Claus rally.” The S&P 500 has notched a gain during the period — the last five trading days of the year followed by the first two session in January — 78.5% of the time since 1928, according to Bank of America.
“Santa has been good to investors this holiday season, and we look for another year of positive returns in 2022,” said Scott Wren, senior global market strategist at Wells Fargo Investment Institute.
With just two trading days left in 2021, the major averages are also on track to end the year in the green. The S&P and Dow are up 27.6% and 19.2%, respectively. The Nasdaq’s gained 22.3%, while the Russell 2000 is up 13.9%.
“2021 was a terrific year for the equity markets,” said Anu Gaggar, global investment strategist for Commonwealth Financial Network. “Between federal stimulus keeping the economy going, easy monetary policy from the Fed keeping markets liquid and interest rates low, and the ongoing medical improvement leading to surprising growth, markets have been in the best of all possible worlds,” she added.
Looking forward, Gaggar said 2022’s performance depends on earnings and stock valuations.
Treasury yields creeping higher could prove to be a headwind for 2022, especially among growth-oriented areas of the market. The yield on the U.S. 10-year Treasury broke above 1.5% on Wednesday.
“We expect interest rates to move modestly higher in 2022 based on near-term inflation expectations above historical trends and improving growth expectations once the impact of COVID-19 variants recede,” said Lawrence Gillum, fixed income strategist for LPL Financial. “Our year-end 2022 forecast for the 10-year Treasury yield is 1.75-2.00%.”
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