Dow futures see muted action as investors await last batch of Christmas week data

Dow futures see muted action as investors await last batch of Christmas week data

U.S. stock futures were pointing to a slightly higher opening Wednesday morning as investors watched for a cavalcade of economic reports, including a weekly reading on jobless benefit claims which are being published a day early due to the shortened holiday trade on Thursday and market closure on Friday in observance of Christmas.

How are equity benchmarks faring?

On Tuesday, the Nasdaq notched its 54th record close of 2020 and Russell 2000 index recorded its 12th all-time high finish:

  • The Nasdaq Composite

    finished up 65.4 points to end at 12,807.92, leaving it up 0.4%, at a new record

  • The small-capitalization Russell 2000 index

    gained 19.55 points, or 1%, to end at a record at 1,989.88.

  • The S&P 500 index

    finished lower for a third straight session, off 7.66 points, or 0.2%, at 3,687.26,

  • The Dow

    fell 200.94 points, or 0.7%, to finish at 30,015.51,

What’s driving the market?

U.S. stock indexes are seeing muted moves in the week of Christmas, with Wall Street already seeing trading volumes thin out, despite a number of developments on the coronavirus aid bill passed by Congress on Monday.

Lighter volumes as investors position for 2021 may make the markets more vulnerable to reports on the progress of the COVID-19 pandemic, which is expected to lead to a grim holiday season.

The number of COVID deaths spiked up to 3,239 on Tuesday, representing the third-highest daily total ever, from 1,962 on Monday, according to data provided by the New York Times. Hospitalizations jumped by 2,426 patients to a record 117,777 on Tuesday, COVID Tracking Project data show.

Meanwhile after Congress finally approved a $900 billion relief bill President Donald Trump called it an “ unsuitable disgrace” late Tuesday, raising the possibility that he may not sign the bill into law by the Dec. 28 deadline and throw months of negotiations on fiscal aid for unemployed Americans and troubled businesses into disarray. Trump is advocating for stimulus checks of $2,000 rather than the $600 checks that are currently a part of the new relief bill.

“ Trump wants a substantial coronavirus stimulus package that might make a difference for households,: wrote Edward Moya, senior market analyst at Oanda, in a daily research note.

“Something needs to get done by December 28th and right now markets are expecting that we could see a last-minute tweak that provides more stimulus for Americans,” he wrote.

Market participants have been uneasy this week at least partly due to reports of a variant strain of coronavirus, leading to intensified lockdowns in parts of Europe to limit contagion.

However medical experts say the vaccines rolled out recently from Pfizer

and German partner BioNTech

as well as from Moderna

should still be effective.

Early Wednesday, Pfizer also confirmed a report that the U.S. had paid for an additional 100 million of its two-dose vaccine. The Associated Press had reported late Tuesday that Pfizer and BioNTech were close to a second deal with the U.S. government

In Europe, France reopened its border with the U.K. following a ban aimed at preventing the new strain from entering the country.

On another possibly positive note, Brexit chief negotiator Michel Barnier said both Britain and the U.K. were making a “final push” for an agreement, with some reports suggesting that a hoped-for Brexit agreement could come sometime Wednesday, though there have been a number of false dawns.

In U.S. economic data expected Wednesday, in addition to weekly jobless benefit claims at 8.30 a.m. ET, there is also personal income and spending for November and durable goods orders which are all forecast to fall. November new home sales and the Michigan Consumer Sentiment reading are at 10:00 a.m. ET.

Which stocks are in focus?

Shares of Palantir Technologies Inc.

were in focus on Wednesday, after the big-data software company said it signed a new two-year contract with the U.K.’s National Health Service.

Shares of Tesla Inc.

 slipped 0.8% in premarket trading Wednesday, putting them on track to suffer a third-straight loss as S&P 500 index SPX, -0.21% freshman.

Supernus Pharmaceuticals Inc.‘s stock

 may draw attention on Wednesday after the company late Tuesday revealed positive results from a study of its potential drug for attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD.

How are other assets faring?
  • In Asian trading, the Shanghai Composite

     rose 0.8%, Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index

    gained 0.9% on Wednesday and Japan’s Nikkei 225

     closed up a modest 0.3%.

  • In Europe, the Stoxx 600 Europe

     traded 0.3% higher, while London’s FTSE 100 index

    was shedding less than 0.1%.

  • The 10-year Treasury note yield

    added 0.4 basis point to around 0.92%. Yields and prices move in opposite directions.

  • Oil futures edge up, with the U.S. benchmark trading


    0.2% higher at $47.14 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange,

  • Gold futures for February delivery

     were trading 0.3% lower at $1,864.10 an ounce, headed for a weekly slide, its first in seven weeks.

  • Meanwhile, a gauge of the U.S. dollar, the ICE U.S. Dollar Index
    fell 0.2% to 90.436.

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