The S&P 500 hit an intraday record to close out Monday’s open, gaining 1% as U.S. stocks pushed forward after the holiday weekend, keeping pace on a strong start to the typically-bullish end-of-year-run known to investors as the Santa Claus Rally.
All three major indexes were up heading into a quiet final trading week of 2021. The Dow, S&P and Nasdaq each ticked higher amid lower trading volumes and light economic and corporate calendars ahead.
The S&P’s climb built on recent momentum after the index say its 68th record close of the year on Thursday in a strong day for markets, buoyed by positive data that suggested the Omicron variant was less likely to lead to hospitalizations. The indexes recouped losses after recent volatility as the market assessed the impact of the virus on the economy.
Investors will tune in to see whether Thursday’s gains sustain momentum for the year-end Santa Claus Rally — one in which stocks climb higher in the final seven trading sessions of a year, plus the first two trading days of the new year.
For reasons unclear, over the past 92 years, the S&P 500 gained 77% of the time during the year-end rally period, according to data from Sundial Capital Research. The average gain in this nine-day trading period tallied 2.66%.
The market will head into 2022 with several key considerations to weigh but with its biggest focus on the course of the pandemic and rising inflationary pressures as well as on measures the Federal Reserve could take in response.
“Inflation and Omicron are the two most important catalysts for the stock market right now,” APAC CEO at Qraft Technologies Francis Oh told Yahoo Finance. “I think that those catalysts are priced in through the market volatility… still I think the market will cautiously move off.”
Merck (MRK) received authorization last week from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for its at-home COVID-19 drug, just one day after Pfizer (PFE) was also approved for use of its own treatment.
The pill developed by Merck in conjunction with Ridgeback Biotherapeutics, called molnupiravir, was shown to reduce hospitalizations and deaths by around 30% in clinical trial data. Pfizer’s pill was reported to be 90% effective at preventing hospitalizations and deaths in high-risk patients.
“One of the ways pandemics end is significant mutation of the virus. It looks like Omicron may be our friend in that regard, significant mutations different enough from the parent that it doesn’t make people as sick,” True Health Initiative President Dr. David Katz told Yahoo Finance Live.
Investors processed a trove of economic releases ahead of the holiday weekend.
The Labor Department reported that initial jobless claims totaled 205,000, sustaining a downward trend from the highs of their pandemic peak and reflecting labor market tightness brought on by a demand for workers heading into the new year. The latest print brings the four-week moving average for new claims to its lowest in 52 years, ticking up by 2,750 week-over-week to reach 206,250.
Meanwhile, U.S. consumer prices accelerated at the fastest pace in …….