Stock futures traded flat as the overnight session kicked off Thursday evening.
The muted after-market moves came following another rally in equity markets during the regular session, with each of the three major indices rising to record intraday and closing highs. Bitcoin prices broke above $40,000 for the first time ever, and U.S. crude oil prices buoyed over $50 per barrel.
Equity investors, once concerned about the prospects of a unified Democratic government, have increasingly warmed to the political backdrop now solidified after the Georgia Senate runoff elections this week. The current composition of Congress has increased the odds of virus relief stimulus advancing in the near-term, many have noted. Credit Suisse on Thursday upgraded its 2021 outlook for the S&P 500 to 4,200 from 4,050 to imply additional upside of 10.4% from the index’s record close, largely on account of the likelihood for more stimulus and a boost to consumer spending.
The Senate election results also peeled away another layer of uncertainty for markets, allowing traders to move forward with conviction in their investment plans, others said.
“Markets more than anything like clarity, they like certainty. So knowing the results of what the election were yesterday, knowing what this means for the broader composition of government, it allows markets to price in any potential changes and move forward,” Jack Manley, JPMorgan Asset Management global market strategist, told Yahoo Finance on Thursday.
“This is not the Blue Wave that we were talking about leading up to the November presidential election. This is something a lot closer to a Blue Ripple,” he said. “The majorities that we see in both the Senate and the House of Representatives are about as narrow as they possibly can be. It means that more extreme policy changes are still going to be very difficult to enact.”
Markets instead will now be able to focus on the expected economic recovery this year, Manley added. And to that end, Friday’s jobs report from the Labor Department will offer one of the final snapshots of the economy at the end of 2020, giving a sense of how much ground the economy will need to make up this year and beyond.
Economists are largely expecting the December jobs report to reflect underwhelming payrolls growth relative to recent months. As of Thursday evening, consensus economists anticipated the economy added back just 50,000 jobs in December after a gain of 245,000 in November, and with the unemployment rate a tick higher at 6.8%. Outside of the consensus estimate, some individual economists also projected the first payrolls decline since April.
“The loss of momentum in the labor market is very clear, and it will continue until COVID restrictions can be eased meaningfully,” Ian Shepherdson, chief economist for Pantheon Macroeconomics, said in a note Thursday. “Depending on the pace of vaccinations and the speed of the decline in cases — right now, they’re still rising but will peak very soon — that likely means late February or March at the soonest. That, in turn, suggests no real improvement in the labor market until April.”
6:03 p.m. ET Thursday: Stock futures open flat to slightly lower
Here were the main moves in markets, as of 6:03 p.m. ET Thursday:
S&P 500 futures (ES=F): 3,796.25, up 0.75 points or 0.02%
Dow futures (YM=F): 30,940.00, down 2 points or 0.01%
Nasdaq futures (NQ=F): 12,928.00, unchanged
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