Stock futures rise ahead of December jobs report

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Stock futures pointed to a higher open Friday morning as investors looked ahead to another batch of expected stimulus under a unified Democratic government, and awaited the results of the December jobs report.

Contracts on the Dow gained more than 70 points, or 0.2%, and those on the Nasdaq and S&P 500 also ticked up, with about two hours left until the opening bell. The moves early Friday came after a rally in equity markets a day earlier, with each of the three major indices rising to record intraday and closing highs. Bitcoin prices held well above $40,000, and U.S. crude oil prices buoyed over $51 per barrel.

Equity investors, once concerned about the prospects of a unified Democratic government, have increasingly warmed to the political backdrop now solidified after the Georgia Senate runoff elections this week. The current composition of Congress has increased the odds of virus relief stimulus advancing in the near-term, many have noted. Credit Suisse on Thursday upgraded its 2021 outlook for the S&P 500 to 4,200 from 4,050 to imply additional upside of 10.4% from the index’s record close, largely on account of the likelihood for more stimulus and a boost to consumer spending.

The Senate election results also peeled away another layer of uncertainty for markets, allowing traders to move forward with conviction in their investment plans, others said.

“Markets more than anything like clarity, they like certainty. So knowing the results of what the election were yesterday, knowing what this means for the broader composition of government, it allows markets to price in any potential changes and move forward,” Jack Manley, JPMorgan Asset Management global market strategist, told Yahoo Finance on Thursday.

“This is not the Blue Wave that we were talking about leading up to the November presidential election. This is something a lot closer to a Blue Ripple,” he said. “The majorities that we see in both the Senate and the House of Representatives are about as narrow as they possibly can be. It means that more extreme policy changes are still going to be very difficult to enact.”

Markets instead will now be able to focus on the expected economic recovery this year, Manley added. And to that end, Friday’s jobs report from the Labor Department will offer one of the final snapshots of the economy at the end of 2020, giving a sense of how much ground the economy will need to make up this year and beyond.

Economists are largely expecting the December jobs report to reflect underwhelming payrolls growth relative to recent months. As of Thursday evening, consensus economists anticipated the economy added back just 50,000 jobs in December after a gain of 245,000 in November, and with the unemployment rate a tick higher at 6.8%. Outside of the consensus estimate, some individual economists also projected the first payrolls decline since April.

“The loss of momentum in the labor market is very clear, and it will continue until COVID restrictions can be eased meaningfully,” Ian Shepherdson, chief economist for Pantheon Macroeconomics, said in a note Thursday. “Depending on the pace of vaccinations and the speed of the decline in cases — right now, they’re still rising but will peak very soon — that likely means late February or March at the soonest. That, in turn, suggests no real improvement in the labor market until April.”

7:34 a.m. ET: Moderna shares rise after UK approves COVID-19 vaccine for use

Moderna (MRNA) shares increased nearly 2% in early trading Friday morning after the UK’s healthcare regulatory agency cleared the company’s COVID-19 inoculation for distribution in the country, which has been struggling with a surge in coronavirus cases and a new variant of the virus. This made the Moderna shot the third COVID-19 vaccine to be approved for use in the nation, after the Oxford-AstraZeneca (AZN) and Pfizer-BioNTech (PFE, BNTX) vaccines.

The decision came a day after European Union regulators approved the Moderna vaccine for use in the bloc. The U.S., Canada and Israel also authorized the vaccine for use earlier.

7:18 a.m. ET Friday: Stock futures point to a higher open

Here were the main moves in markets, as of 7:18 a.m. ET Friday:

  • S&P 500 futures (ES=F): 3,807.00 up 11.5 points or 0.3%

  • Dow futures (YM=F): 31,015.00, up 73 points or 0.24%

  • Nasdaq futures (NQ=F): 12,987.25, up 59.25 points or 0.5%

  • Crude (CL=F): +$0.69 (+1.36%) to $51.52 a barrel

  • Gold (GC=F): -$19.10 (-1.00%) to $1,894.50 per ounce

  • 10-year Treasury (^TNX): +1.4 bps to yield 1.085%

6:03 p.m. ET Thursday: Stock futures open flat to slightly lower

Here were the main moves in markets, as of 6:03 p.m. ET Thursday:

  • S&P 500 futures (ES=F): 3,796.25, up 0.75 points or 0.02%

  • Dow futures (YM=F): 30,940.00, down 2 points or 0.01%

  • Nasdaq futures (NQ=F): 12,928.00, unchanged

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - MAY 26: A trader walks by the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) on the first day that traders are allowed back onto the historic floor of the exchange on May 26, 2020 in New York City. While only a small number of traders will be returning at this time, those that do will have to take temperature checks and wear face masks at all times while on the floor. The Dow rose over 600 points in morning trading as investors see economic activity in America picking up (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NEW YORK – MAY 26: A trader walks by the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) on the first day that traders are allowed back onto the historic floor of the exchange on May 26, 2020 in New York City. While only a small number of traders will be returning at this time, those that do will have to take temperature checks and wear face masks at all times while on the floor. The Dow rose over 600 points in morning trading as investors see economic activity in America picking up (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

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