Wall St gains, dollar declines as extraordinary year winds down

By Stephen Culp

NEW YORK (Reuters) -Wall Street edged higher and the dollar dipped to its lowest in more than two years on Wednesday, the penultimate trading day in a remarkable year of pandemic, recession and recovery.

All three major U.S. stock indexes were up modestly as recently enacted stimulus and the ongoing rollout of COVID-19 vaccines fed optimism over economic recovery in 2021.

“2021 is going to be the beginning of it,” said Matthew Keator, managing partner in the Keator Group, a wealth management firm in Lenox, Massachusetts. “My anticipation will probably be more robust in the latter part of 2021.”

“Once there’s the sense of an all-clear sign, we would anticipate a robust response from the consumer,” Keator added.

For now, Keator suggests the markets are in wait-and-see mode.

“The markets are saying ‘what have you done for me lately?’ and people are going to be focusing on what’s going to happen if we see more and more restrictions due to the pandemic,” he said.

Britain approved a coronavirus vaccine developed by Oxford University and AstraZeneca in the latest development in the rapid progression, testing, approval and deployment of drugs to battle the disease.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 64.34 points, or 0.21%, to 30,400.01, the S&P 500 gained 4.91 points, or 0.13%, to 3,731.95 and the Nasdaq Composite added 28.54 points, or 0.22%, to 12,878.76.

European stocks reversed gains to end a five-day winning streak, closing lower as investors locked in year-end gains.

The pan-European STOXX 600 index lost 0.34% and MSCI’s gauge of stocks across the globe gained 0.33%.

Emerging market stocks rose 1.70%. MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan closed 1.81% higher, while Japan’s Nikkei lost 0.45%.

U.S. Treasury yields were slightly lower in thin trading as investors bet that Republicans were unlikely to approve the passage of proposed $2,000 stimulus checks.

Benchmark 10-year notes last rose 3/32 in price to yield 0.9264%, from 0.935% late on Tuesday.

The 30-year bond last rose 9/32 in price to yield 1.6623%, from 1.674% late on Tuesday.

The dollar fell to the lowest since April 2018 against a basket of world currencies as investors bet on more fiscal support and positioned for year-end in light trading volume.

The dollar index fell 0.34%, with the euro up 0.27% to $1.228.

The Japanese yen strengthened 0.30% versus the greenback at 103.28 per dollar, while Sterling was last trading at $1.3607, up 0.79% on the day.

Crude oil prices inched higher on the back of the weaker dollar and a dip in U.S. inventories, but gains were capped by dimming hopes of a demand rebound.

U.S. crude futures gained 0.83% to settle at $48.40 per barrel and Brent settled at $51.34 per barrel, up 0.49% on the day.

Gold prices rose, countering a dip in the greenback, although global COVID-19 vaccine rollouts and increased risk appetite limited the safe-haven metal’s gains.

Spot gold added 0.6% to $1,888.28 an ounce.

(Reporting by Stephen Culp; Editing by Steve Orlofsky)





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