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Dow retakes 36,000, S&P 500 carves out intraday record, as stocks shake off COVID-led flight cancellations to climb – MarketWatch

U.S. stock benchmarks rose midday Monday, with gains in technology shares helping to establish an intraday record for the S&P 500, which could lead to its 69th record close of 2021.

But travel-related names were under pressure after surging COVID-19 cases triggered hundreds of U.S. flights to be scrapped.

How are stock benchmarks trading?
  • The S&P 500

    rose 48 points, or 1%, to 4,770, with the broad-market benchmark setting a intraday record at 4,773.95.

  • The Dow Jones Industrial Average

    climbed up 228 points, or 0.6%, to reach 36,179.

  • The Nasdaq Composite Index

    climbed 174 points, or 1.1%, to around 15,827.

Ahead of the long holiday weekend, Thursday’s session saw the S&P 500 rise 0.6% to 4,725.79, a new closing record. The Dow gained 196.67 points, or 0.6%, to end at 35,950.56 and the Nasdaq Composite climbed 0.9% to 15,653. For the week, the Dow rose 1.7%, the S&P 500 gained 2.3% and Nasdaq added 3.2%.

What’s driving the stock market?

Optimism that the latest wave of COVID-19 won’t disrupt the economy pushed stocks higher on Monday, even as coronavirus upended Christmas travel, and White House medical adviser Dr. Anthony Fauci warned against complacency over the omicron variant, which he said could end up swamping hospitals even if many infections appear mild.

Hundreds of flights were canceled across the globe over the weekend as surging COVID-19 infections triggered quarantines for airline staff. Shares of American Airlines
Delta Air Lines
Jetblue Airways Corp
, and United Airlines

were down, with cruise operator Carnival

also trading lower.

Read: Caribbean cruise denied entry by ports due to COVID-19 outbreak

While travel was a mess, the retail side of the economy appeared to be holding up, with Mastercard Spending Pulse reporting that holiday sales rose 8.5% against a year earlier, the biggest annual gain in 17 years.

The week ahead may see lower volumes than normal, as investors take an extended break. Many will be watching for the start of the so-called Santa Claus rally, a seasonally bullish period in the last five trading sessions of a year and the first two in the new year.

Read: The stock market hasn’t been this stomach-churning in December since 2018. Here’s the setup for the year’s final week.

“The focus among investors and traders continues to remain on three important factors. Firstly, the economic data —traders would like to see more strength in the economic numbers, then you have the ongoing omicron COVID infection ratio — this is increasing for the last number of weeks, and finally the hawkish monetary policy stance among central bankers,” said Naeem Aslam, chief market analyst at AvaTrade.

Aslam said there are concerns that post-New Year’s Eve will see more spikes in infections, or governments clamping down ahead of time.

“The fact is that no one wants to see another total lockdown as they have an adverse influence on the economy. The world is still suffering from supply bottleneck shortages due to COVID restrictions introduced last year,” he said, in a note to clients.

What stocks are in focus?
  • BridgeBio Pharma

    shares sank 70% after the pharmaceutical company said a Phase 3 trial for a key drug failed to meet key endpoints.

  • Shares of Microbot Medical Inc. MBOT rocketed over 48% toward a nine-month high on heavy volume Monday, after the preclinical medical device company announced an agreement with Stryker CorpSYK to develop the first dedicated robotic procedural kits for use in certain neurovascular procedures. Shares of Stryker were up around 0.2%.

  • News Corp NWS announced Monday an agreement to buy the Base Chemicals business from S&P Global IncSPGI and IHS Markit Ltd. INFO for $295 million in cash. News Corp Class A and B shares were about 1.5% higher.

How are other assets trading?
  • The yield on the 10-year Treasury note

     slipped slightly to 1.482%. Yields and debt prices move opposite each other.

  • The ICE U.S. Dollar Index 
     a measure of the currency against a basket of six major rivals, was 0.1% higher.

  • Oil futures rose, with the U.S. benchmark 

    up 2.8% to $75.90 a barrel, while gold futures 

    were roughly flat near $1,811 an ounce.

  • Bitcoin BTCUSD, 0.06% gained 1% to $51,515.00.

  • The Stoxx Europe 600 index 

    closed up 0.6%, while London markets were closed in observance of Boxing Day.

  • The Shanghai Composite 

     was flat, while the Hang Seng Index 

     was closed and Japan’s Nikkei 225 

    fell 0.3%.

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