Wednesday, December 22, 2021

U.S. equities finish higher to extend yesterday's gains

U.S. equities finished higher to extend yesterday's gains, after a better-than-expected Consumer Confidence report showed increasing optimism. Despite the improved outlook, investors continued to grapple with the uncertainties surrounding the omicron variant and its economic impact. 

President Biden spoke on COVID yesterday afternoon, announcing plans to distribute free at-home COVID testing kits and dispatch 1,000 members of the military to support hospitals, while avoiding any mention of lockdowns. 

In other economic news, existing home sales rose for the third consecutive month, albeit at a smaller-than-expected pace, Q3 GDP was revised slightly higher and mortgage applications declined. On the equity front, Pfizer’s Paxlovid oral pill was granted an emergency use authorization by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for treatment of COVID-19 disease in high-risk adults and pediatric patients, 

CarMax posted upbeat quarterly results on record auto sales, while BlackBerry broke even for the quarter, but disappointed the Street with its guidance. Treasuries were mixed, and the U.S. dollar dipped, while crude oil prices were higher, and gold advanced. Europe finished broadly higher and Asia mostly advanced.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average increased 261 points (0.7%) to 35,754, the S&P 500 Index rose 47 points (1.0%) to 4,697, and the Nasdaq Composite gained 181 points (1.2%) to 15,522. In lighter volume, 3.2 billion shares of NYSE-listed stocks were traded, and 4.0 billion shares changed hands on the Nasdaq. 

WTI crude oil moved $1.64 higher to $72.76 per barrel. Elsewhere, the gold spot price gained $16.30 to $1,805.00 per ounce, and the Dollar Index—a comparison of the U.S. dollar to six major world currencies—was 0.5% lower at 96.04.

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