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Stocks Close at Records as Wall Street Assesses Stimulus Prospects

Stocks close at records as Wall Street assesses prospects for more economic stimulus following a weaker-than-expected U.S. jobs report.

Stocks finished at records for a second day Friday as investors assessed expectations for more economic stimulus following a weaker-than-expected U.S. jobs report.

A report in the Washington Post said West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin opposed providing Americans with $2,000 stimulus checks, creating an obstacle for President-elect Joe Biden's push to boost stimulus measures.

Biden has vowed that larger relief checks would be delivered to Americans if the Democrats won the Senate runoff elections in Georgia, which they did earlier this week.

Biden, in a televised address Friday, said a weaker-than-expected U.S. jobs report showed the need for more economic stimulus "now."

The Dow Jones Industrial Average finished up 56 points, or 0.18%, to 31,097. The S&P 500 rose 0.55% to 3,824, and the Nasdaq gained 1.03% to 13,201. 

The S&P 500 and Nasdaq also set record intraday highs during Friday's session.

For the week, the Dow rose 1.6%, the S&P 500 added 1.8% and the Nasdaq gained 2.4%.

The U.S. lost 140,000 jobs in December, the first drop in employment since April, as Covid-19 cases surged and tighter restrictions were placed on people and businesses.

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Hiring slowed in December amid another surge in coronavirus infections. Economists surveyed by FactSet had expected the U.S. to add 100,000 jobs in December, though many experts had predicted a contraction. 

The unemployment rate in December held steady at 6.7%.

"In one line: grim, and unlikely to get much better before the spring," said Ian Shepherdson, chief economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics.

Shepherdson said the jobs report tells a "story consistent with the surge in Covid cases in recent months, and the restrictions imposed to try to contain the pandemic." He noted that leisure and hospitality jobs fell by 498,000 in December.

Boeing  (BA) - Get The Boeing Company Report shares fell 1.3% to $210 after the jetmaker agreed to pay a $2.5 billion fine over fraud and conspiracy charges linked to its 737 MAX jet program.

A new study suggested the vaccine developed by Pfizer  (PFE) - Get Pfizer Inc. Report and BioNTech  (BNTX) - Get BioNTech SE Report could offer protection against mutations found in new, fast-spreading variants of the coronavirus that were discovered in the U.K. and South Africa.

The report, conducted by researchers from the University of Texas Medical Branch and supported by Pfizer and BioNTech, found that antibodies from vaccine recipients successfully fended off the virus in lab dishes. The study hasn't yet been reviewed by experts.

Deaths in the U.S. from the coronavirus were at 367,635, according to Johns Hopkins University. The U.S. on Thursday reported a daily record of more than 4,000 deaths.