US stocks waver as investors digest rising jobless claims and stimulus gridlock

Lucas Jackson/Reuters
  • US stocks closed mixed on Thursday amid disappointing economic data and slowed stimulus progress.
  • The S&P 500 and Dow Jones industrial average fell, while tech giants led the Nasdaq composite to a single-day gain.
  • New US weekly jobless claims jumped to an unadjusted 853,000 for the week that ended on Saturday, handily exceeding the 725,000 estimate. It was also the highest total in 11 weeks.
  • Democrats and Republicans remain at odds over a new fiscal relief package. The House voted Wednesday night to fund the government for an additional week and buy more time for stimulus negotiations.
  • The US Food and Drug Administration convened to evaluate Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine and decide whether its benefits outweigh its risks for use in people at least 16 years old.
  • Watch major indexes update live here.

US stocks closed mixed on Thursday as disappointing jobless claims data and slowed stimulus progress dragged on bullishness.

The S&P 500 and Dow Jones industrial average fell further from record highs set on Tuesday. Tech giants led the Nasdaq composite to outperform with a single-day gain.

New filings for unemployment benefits climbed to an unadjusted 853,000 for the week that ended on Saturday, the Labour Department said Thursday. Economists surveyed by Bloomberg had expected a reading of 725,000 claims. The reading was the highest level in 11 weeks and a sharp increase from the previous week’s revised total of 716,000.

Continuing claims, which track the number of Americans receiving unemployment benefits, jumped to 5.8 million for the week that ended on November 28. That came in above economists’ forecasts and marked the first weekly increase since August.

Here’s where US indexes stood at the 4 p.m. ET close on Thursday:


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“The jump in weekly unemployment claims was partially due to a rebound from lower claims during Thanksgiving week, but the trend of more Americans losing jobs is clearly rising over the last month,” said Robert Frick, a corporate economist at Navy Federal Credit Union.

On the stimulus front, Democratic and Republican leaders remain at odds over key elements of their respective proposals. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has offered a package without pandemic-related liability protections for businesses and aid for state and local governments. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi balked at the proposal, and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer emphasised the need for more state and local relief.

The House voted Wednesday night to fund the government for another week and buy extra time for stimulus talks. The S&P 500 initially gained after Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Pelosi said they have made progress in negotiations, but the index swung into a loss soon after.


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Energy stocks outperformed in the benchmark index by a wide margin. Industrials and materials tumbled the most.

Airbnb opened 115% higher Thursday afternoon after raising $US3.5 billion in its initial public offering. On Wednesday,DoorDash shares nearly doubled in the company’s first day of public trading. The IPO pops cap a record year for market debuts but signal market optimism may be overextended.

“You have speculators rotating out of names and playing the Wall Street casino. This is indicative of that behaviour,” Rich Steinberg, chief investment strategist at The Colony Group, told Business Insider.

The US Food and Drug Administration convened to evaluate Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine. A panel is set to vote on Thursday on whether the benefits of the vaccine outweigh its risks for use in people at least 16 years old.


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Blank-check firm Silver Spike Acquisition Corp. surged after announcing plans to take cannabis e-commerce platform Weedmaps public. The deal will value the combined entity at roughly $US1.5 billion.

Bitcoin fell as low as $US17,914.56 before bouncing back above the crucial $US18,000 support level. The token has steadily trended lower after hitting a record high in early December.

Gold dropped as much as 0.6%, to $US1,828.74 per ounce, after gaining through the morning. The US dollar weakened against a basket of Group-of-20 currencies, and Treasury yields fell.

Oil prices gained on vaccine hopes. West Texas Intermediate crude rose as much as 4.9%, to $US47.74 per barrel. Brent crude, oil’s international benchmark, jumped as much as 4.5% to $US51.06 per barrel, its highest level since March.


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