Stocks End at Record Highs as Wall Street Bets Stimulus Package Is Near

Stocks close at record highs as another surprise jump in initial jobless claims boosts expectations on Wall Street that congressional leaders soon will agree to a coronavirus aid package.
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All three major indexes closed at record highs Thursday as another surprise jump in initial jobless claims increased confidence on Wall Street that congressional leaders soon will agree to a coronavirus aid package.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average finished up 148 points, or 0.49%, to 30,303, the S&P 500 gained 0.58%  to close at 3,722, and the Nasdaq rose 0.84% to close at 12,765. 

The S&P 500 and tech-heavy Nasdaq traded at record intraday highs earlier in Thursday's session.

While Congress was putting the finishing touches on the $900 billion relief plan some details of what will be included in the package have emerged.

People briefed on the negotiations told Bloomberg the draft of the plan includes $600 in payments for individuals, $300 a week in supplemental unemployment insurance payments and aid for small businesses. It also includes roughly $17 billion for airlines.

The package omits aid to state and local governments and lawsuit liability protection, sticking points that have held up previous negotiations.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said a bipartisan deal ”appears to be close at hand,” but likely would require work over the weekend to get through both chambers of Congress, Bloomberg reported.

Relief can't come soon enough for a floundering U.S. labor market.

Jobless claims unexpectedly jumped again last week as businesses continued to scale back hiring amid the worst surge in the coronavirus pandemic to date.

The Labor Department reported Thursday that 885,000 Americans filed for first-time jobless benefits in the week ended Dec. 12, up from a revised 862,000 claims the week earlier and the highest since early September. Economists polled by FactSet had been expecting claims of 800,000.

The numbers reflect ongoing troubles in the labor market, where the pandemic has continued to impact employers' decisions on keeping staff on the payroll, even during the critical holiday shopping season.

"If any doubts remained that record Covid-19 cases were pushing up unemployment claims, they were dashed with the latest week's numbers," said Robert Frick, corporate economist at Navy Federal Credit Union. 

"The federal aid package can't come a day too soon to mitigate job losses, declines in retail spending and a host of other measures that have headed down in the last two months," Frick added.

Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell pledged Wednesday the central bank would keep providing support to the U.S. economy.

The Fed said it would maintain its pace of bond buying program, currently at $120 billion a month, and said its broader strategy of accommodation would remain in place until "substantial further progress" has been made in meeting its employment and inflation goals.

Powell said he expects the economy to rebound at a healthy pace in the second half of 2021 as vaccines against the coronavirus are widely distributed.

Moderna's  (MRNA) - Get Report coronavirus vaccine candidate will go before an advisory panel of the Food and Drug Administration on Thursday. The full FDA could sign off on emergency use for the vaccine as early as Friday.

Earlier this week, staff at the FDA said Moderna's vaccine for Covid-19 was "highly effective" in preventing the potentially deadly disease. Moderna said its vaccine candidate has an efficacy rate of about 94%.

TheStreet's Best Stocks of the Year: Moderna Is No. 3

Bitcoin traded above $23,000 for the first time in history as investors and speculators jumped on board.

The world’s largest digital currency has more than tripled during 2020. It crossed $20,000 for the first time, just on Wednesday.