S&P 500, Nasdaq close at record highs for 2nd day as tech giants rally

S&P 500, Nasdaq close at record highs for 2nd day as tech giants rally
AP Images / Richard Drew
  • US stocks gained on Thursday as investors cheered the Biden administration's strategy to better tackle the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • President Joe Biden revealed plans to accelerate testing, vaccine rollouts, and reopenings early Thursday morning.
  • Initial jobless claims fell to 900,000 last week, according to the Labor Department. Economists expected claims to total 935,000.
  • Watch major indexes update live here.

US equities rose on Thursday as investors bet on the Biden administration to accelerate the nation's economic recovery.

President Joe Biden unveiled new plans for how the government will tackle the coronavirus pandemic on Thursday. The president aims to sign 10 executive orders and invoke the Defense Production Act to accelerate testing, vaccine distribution, and reopen schools and businesses.

Efforts to better curb the virus's spread are set to join a push for additional fiscal support. The president called for a $1.9 trillion stimulus package earlier in the month that includes $1,400 direct payments, expanded unemployment insurance, and relief for states and municipalities.
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Optimism around new stimulus and strong quarterly figures from Netflix lifted tech stocks for a second consecutive day. Smaller gains in the consumer discretionary and communications sectors were enough to offset losses elsewhere in the S&P 500. Energy and materials stocks lagged the modest market climb.

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

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"Expectations are high that big tech will be the bright spot this earnings season and demand is strong for most of the mega-cap tech stocks," Edward Moya, senior market analyst at Oanda, said in a note.

In economic data, weekly filings for unemployment benefits totaled an unadjusted 900,000 last week as the labor market's recovery continued to push up against elevated COVID-19 cases. Economists surveyed by Bloomberg expected claims to reach 935,000. Continuing claims, which track Americans receiving unemployment-insurance payments, fell to 5.1 million for the week that ended January 9. That came in below the median economist estimate of 5.3 million claims.
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"Fiscal stimulus prospects, along with broader vaccine diffusion, are pointing to a brightening labor market outlook but with the pandemic still raging, claims are poised to remain elevated in the near-term," Lydia Boussour, lead US economist at Oxford Economics, said.

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United Airlines sank after its fourth-quarter report missed Wall Street expectations for revenue and profit. The company cautioned that, despite vaccines being distributed nationwide, the pandemic will weigh on travel activity throughout 2021.
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Moderna gained after California reauthorized the use of a batch of its COVID-19 vaccines. The state government temporarily halted the use of some 300,000 vaccines amid concerns that the shots were causing recipients to fall ill.

Ford extended a three-day rally after electric-truck maker Rivian raised roughly $2.7 billion at a valuation of $27.6 billion. Ford holds an undisclosed stake in the startup.

Bitcoin tumbled close to $31,000 as sell-offs cut further into the cryptocurrency's bullish momentum. An unconfirmed report from BitMEX Research suggested a flaw allowed for "double spend" in the bitcoin blockchain, essentially allowing a holder to use the same bitcoin for separate transactions.
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Gold rose 0.24%, to $1,870.90 per ounce. The dollar weakened against a basket of Group-of-20 currencies and Treasury yields climbed slightly.

Oil prices fell but remained above the $50 support level. West Texas Intermediate crude dropped as much as 0.56%, to $53.01 per barrel. Brent crude, oil's international standard, declined 0.12%, to $56.01 per barrel.

Now read more markets coverage from Markets Insider and Business Insider:
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