Stocks End Modestly Higher as Brexit Deal Is Finalized

Stocks finish modestly higher in holiday-shortened trading as the U.K. and European Union finalize their Brexit trade agreement.
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Stocks finished modestly higher in Thursday's holiday-shortened session as U.K. and European Union negotiators finalized their Brexit trade agreement.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 70 points, or 0.23%, to 30,199, the S&P 500 gained 0.36% and the Nasdaq rose 0.26%. 

For the week, the Dow rose 0.07% higher, the S&P 500 slipped 0.02% and the Nasdaq tacked on 0.4%.

Stocks closed mixed on Wednesday but the Nasdaq and Russell 2000 index secured record intraday highs as investors expected a coronavirus relief package to get done despite changes demanded by President Donald Trump.

House Republicans, as expected, blocked an attempt on Thursday by Democrats to meet Trump’s demand that most Americans receive checks of $2,000 rather than the $600 agreed to in the pandemic relief legislation.

The New York Stock Exchange and Nasdaq ended trading at 1 p.m. ET on Thursday, and will be closed on Christmas Day. 

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The Brexit trade agreement came one week before the end of the Brexit transition period and after 4 1/2 years of negotiations. The deal formally completes Britain’s separation from the 27-nation bloc.

"The Brexit deal is a significant moment in British history, especially given the nearly five years of gridlock and uncertainty with the negotiations following the initial 2016 Brexit referendum," said Greg Swenson, founding partner of Brigg Macadam, a London-based investment bank. 

Swenson added that "the post-Brexit trade deal is definitely better than no deal, and it's especially good timing given the Covid-19 pandemic, which has created additional challenges for the UK and its economy."

The agreement ensures the two sides can continue to trade in goods without tariffs or quotas. The rights of EU boats to trawl in British waters remained the last obstacle before it was resolved, the Associated Press reported. 

"It was a long and winding road, but we have got a good deal to show for it," Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission, the EU's executive branch, said at a news conference.

U.S.-listed shares of Alibaba  (BABA) - Get Report ended down 13% after Chinese regulators began an anti-monopoly investigation of the e-commerce giant.

Officials of Ant Group, an online finance platform spun off from Alibaba, also have been summoned to meet with regulators.

The moves by China were regulatory pushes against China’s richest entrepreneur, Jack Ma, the co-founder of Alibaba and Ant, as well as part of a larger effort to step up anti-monopoly enforcement. 

The country appears to be especially concerned about tightening control over Alibaba and other dominant internet companies that are expanding into finance, health care and other businesses, reports said.