US stocks climb as investors weigh political clarity against virus risks

REUTERS/Brendan McDermid
  • US stocks gained on Friday as hopes for a peaceful transition to the Biden administration offset concerns about rising COVID-19 cases.
  • President Trump said Thursday that, should the Electoral College rule President-elect Joe Biden the winner of the 2020 election, he’ll hand over his power.
  • The US reported 125,082 new cases on Thursday, bringing the 7-day average to 163,831, according to The COVID Tracking Project. Deaths topped 254,000 and hospitalizations jumped above 90,000.
  • Cboe’s VIX index — also known as Wall Street’s “fear gauge” — fell below 20 on Friday to its lowest level since the pandemic began amid low trading volumes.
  • Watch major indexes update live here.

US equities rose on Friday as optimism from President-elect Joe Biden’s transition to the White House squared off with rising virus risks.

President Donald Trump said Thursday that he will pass on power to Biden should the Electoral College cement the president-elect’s victory. Though Trump indicated he might never officially concede defeat, the statement further eased concerns that the sitting president wouldn’t allow for a peaceful transition of power.

Here’s where US indexes stood shortly after the 9:30 a.m. ET open on Wednesday:

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US stock markets are set to close at 1 p.m. ET on Friday following the Thanksgiving holiday.

The Biden administration’s transition and the president-elect’s nomination of Janet Yellen as Treasury Secretary lifted investor sentiments throughout the week. Yet rising coronavirus cases across the country reined in some bullishness. The US reported 125,082 new cases on Thursday, bringing the 7-day average to 163,831, according to The COVID Tracking Project. Hospitalizations rose above 90,000 and deaths reached 254,000.

The fading of political uncertainties pulled market volatility to its lowest point since the pandemic froze economic activity in March. Cboe’s VIX index — commonly referred to as Wall Street’s “fear gauge” — fell below 20 on Friday amid the calm trading activity.

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Investors will likely be looking to early reports of Black Friday shopping activity to gauge whether soaring case counts and the slowing pace of economic recovery will impact holiday-season sales. Consumer spending and income data pointed to worsening conditions on Wednesday, and some fear weaker-than-expected holiday revenues could lead to new economic pain.

Bitcoin fell in Friday trading, extending its biggest slide since the start of the pandemic. The cryptocurrency soared to just below its 2017 record of roughly $US19,700 before profit-taking dragged bitcoin below $US16,000 through the Thanksgiving holiday.

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Gold sank as much as 2.3%, to $US1,774.42 per ounce, its lowest since June. The US dollar weakened the majority of its Group-of-10 peers, while Treasury yields fell.

Oil futures traded mixed. West Texas Intermediate crude fell as much as 2.5%, to $US44.55 per barrel. Brent crude, oil’s international benchmark, posted an increase. It gained 1.3%, to $US48.44 per barrel, at intraday highs.

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