U.S. stocks were mixed Wednesday, putting the Dow on pace for its sixth consecutive gain, as investors continue to edge stock markets higher, while shrugging off Omicron concerns, over the final full trading days of the year.
Global oil prices were marked at a one-month high in overnight trading, with WTI futures for February delivery trading just under $76 a barrel, as investors grow incrementally more bullish on growth prospects once the current Omicron wave dissipates.
However, trading volumes remain light, with just over 7.55 billion shares changing hands on U.S. exchanges Tuesday, a level representing around two thirds of the recent 20-day average.
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Still, with overall U.S. Covid cases hitting a record high 258,312 over the past seven days, lead by gains in New York, California and Texas as the Omicron variant retains in dominance, investors are likely to remain cautious until more data emerges to confirm earlier studies that suggest it carries milder symptoms and a reduced risk of hospitalization.
On Wall Street, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was marked 85 points higher in the opening hour of trading, while the S&P 500 gained 6 points.
The tech-focused Nasdaq Composite, however, fell 15 points higher as benchmark 10-year Treasury note yields rose to 1.538% in late morning New York trading.
Pre-market volumes for individual stocks were also light on Wednesday, although Tesla (TSLA) - Get Tesla Inc Report remained active, rising 1.5%, after founder and CEO Elon Musk exercised his final batch of stock options, set to expire next year, while selling another $1.02 billion shares in the world's most valuable carmaker.
Micron (MU) - Get Micron Technology, Inc. Report shares were also in focus, rising 2.5% amid reports that its key memory chip rival, Samsung, has suspended production at key factory in China amid a new Covid outbreak.
In Europe, the region-wide Stoxx 600 hit a fresh all-time peak of 490.10 points earlier in the session, taking its year-to-date gain to around 22.5%, while Britain's FTSE 100 traded at a near two-month high of 7,432.45 points in mid-day dealing in London.
Overnight in Asia, the region-wide MSCI ex-Japan benchmark slipped 0.3% into the close of trading, while the Nikkei 225 in Tokyo ended the session 0.56% lower at 28,906.88 points.