The First Slice for Thursday, December 30, 2021

(MarketWatch) — Major U.S. stock indexes swept to record closes Wednesday, except for the Nasdaq Composite Index, which finished slightly lower as longer-dated Treasury yields climbed to one-month highs.

The omicron variant of the coronavirus remains a focus for investors, but the new strain has yet to significantly impede the market’s recent uptrend, even as the World Health Organization on Wednesday reported that the number of COVID-19 cases recorded worldwide increased by 11% last week compared with the previous week, led by the Americas. 

  • The Dow rose +90.42 or +0.25%
  • The S&P 500 gained +6.71 or +0.14%
  • The Nasdaq shed -15.51 or -0.10%

The Dow scored its first record close Wednesday in almost seven weeks, but investors struggled to find fresh incentives to push the rally substantially higher in the final days of 2021.

Investors mostly have shaken off fears about COVID-19 impeding the U.S. economic recovery, but the interest-rate sensitive Nasdaq Composite closed slightly down Wednesday as the yield for the 10-year Treasury rose to its highest level in about a month at 1.54%.

Wall Street has been wagering that this year’s economic recovery and strong earnings from U.S. corporations will continue to underpin equity buying into 2022, at least for the first few months.

As COVID case counts rise, the U.S. has started shipping some doses of the recently authorized COVID-19 antivirals developed by Pfizer Inc. and Merck & Co. Inc. pills intended to be prescribed for people with mild or moderate cases.

In U.S. economic data Wednesday, the trade deficit in goods surged by 17.5% in November to set an all-time high, keeping the U.S. on track in 2021 to post its biggest annual shortfall on record. An early or advanced look at the trade gap in goods showed that it increased to $97.8 billion in November from a revised $83.2 billion in October, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. The U.S. is poised to surpass a record set in 2006 and incur its biggest international trade deficit ever.

Separately, the number of homebuyers who signed a contract to purchase a home in November declined, as high home prices give buyers pause. Pending home sales decreased 2.2% in November compared with October, the National Association of Realtors reported Wednesday.

  • Shares of Biogen Inc.  advanced 9.5% Wednesday, after the Korea Economic Daily reported that the U.S.-based drug maker is in talks to be acquired by South Korea-based conglomerate Samsung Group in a deal that could value Biogen at roughly $42 billion. 
  • Cruise ships shares mostly fell Wednesday, weighing on Carnival Corp  Norwegian Cruise Line and Walt Disney & Co. DIS, which operates ships as well as theme parks, that have grappled withrising COVID-19 infections
  • Shares of NRx Pharmaceuticals Inc.  added 10.4% Wednesday, after the drug development company said it filed a new Breakthrough Therapy Designation with the Food and Drug Administration for Zyesami in patients at immediate risk of death from COVID-19.  
  • Shares of Facebook parent Meta Platforms Inc.  dropped 1% Wednesday, reversing earlier intraday gains of as much as 1%, after the Wall Street Journal reported that the social-media and metaverse company looked to divide lawmakers along party lines to forestall any bipartisan attempt to install tougher rules on social-media platforms. 
  • Shares of Tesla TSLA fell 0.2% after CEO Elon Musk sold another $1 billion of stock in the electric-vehicle maker, according to Securities and Exchange Commission filings, to pay the taxes for the exercise of a 1.55 million share option. 
  • Shares of Apple Inc. rose 0.1% after reports that the iPhone maker is paying up to $180,000 to prevent employees from moving to tech rivals including Meta Platforms, according to Bloomberg News.
  • Oil futures rose, with the U.S. benchmark CL00 closing up 0.8% to settle at $76.56 a barrel.
  • Gold futures GC00 for February delivery GCG22 declined 0.3% to settle at $1,805.80 an ounce. 
  • Bitcoin BTCUSD was about 1.2% lower around $47,195, adding to a downturn on Tuesday.

Full Loaf Hot LinkOriginal Article By: Joy Wiltermuth

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