Dow, S&P 500 close at record highs on hopes for additional Democrat-backed stimulus

capitol dc
  • All major US equity indexes closed at record highs on Thursday as Democrats' victories in Georgia Senate runoffs bolstered hopes for additional fiscal stimulus.
  • Democrats' dual victories in Georgia Senate runoffs pave the way for the Biden administration to pass sweeping fiscal support in early 2021.
  • A joint session of Congress confirmed Biden's win early Thursday morning, just hours after a pro-Trump mob stormed the Capitol. The move eased some concerns around the violent riots.
  • Filings for unemployment benefits totaled an unadjusted 787,000 for the week that ended Saturday, according to the Labor Department. While the reading lands below estimates, it shows little improvement from the prior week's total.
  • Watch major indexes update live here.

All majori US equity indexes closed at record highs on Thursday amid optimism that Democrats will quickly pass another tranche of fiscal stimulus.

While the response to Wednesday's violence on Capitol Hill made headlines, investors shifted their focus toward Georgia's Senate runoff outcomes and increased chances of new fiscal relief. Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock's victories pave the way for the first Democrat-controlled government since 2011 and more progressive economic policy in the wake of the coronavirus recession.

Democrats will likely use soft majority to pass front-loaded stimulus, green energy initiatives, and infrastructure expansion, Joseph Song, US economist at Bank of America, said in a note to clients. Such measures provide upside risk to the bank's GDP and inflation forecasts for the second half of 2021, he added.

Here's where US indexes stood at the 4 p.m. ET close on Thursday:

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Credit Suisse lifted its S&P 500 target to 4,200 from 4,050, citing the likelihood of Democrat-backed stimulus for their increasingly bullish view. The bank's analysts also upgraded a collection of cyclical sectors to "overweight" from "market weight" including industrials, materials, and energy stocks.

Concerns around Wednesday's storming of the Capitol were largely ignored by the time markets closed. A joint session of Congress confirmed Biden's win early Thursday morning, hours after pro-Trump insurrectionists delayed the certification process.

Trump pledged to conduct a peaceful transition of power soon after the confirmation, deviating from previously steadfast claims that he won the election and would remain in the White House.

"Even though I totally disagree with the outcome of the election, and the facts bear me out, nevertheless there will be an orderly transition on January 20th," the president said in a statement.

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Nine out of the 11 S&P 500 sectors gained through the day. Tech and consumer discretionary stocks outperformed, while utilities and consumer staples fell.

On the economic data front, jobless claims in the US hovered at elevated levels as the labor-market crisis entered the new year. Filings for unemployment benefits totaled an unadjusted 787,000 for the week that ended Saturday, according to the Labor Department. The reading comes in just below the previous week's revised total and snaps a two-week streak of declines. Economists surveyed by Bloomberg expected claims to reach 800,000. 

Continuing claims, which track the aggregate total of Americans receiving unemployment benefits, declined to 5.1 million for the week that ended December 26. That came in below economist forecasts.

Tesla notched a record high after RBC Capital analysts reversed from their previously bearish outlook and upgraded the stock.

Read more: Wall Street experts are calling Georgia's runoff results 'the first surprise of 2021.' Here's how 4 of them recommend positioning your portfolio for what could happen next.

Plug Power rallied after announcing a $1.5 billion investment from SK Group, South Korea's third-largest conglomerate. The partnership aims to build out hydrogen energy infrastructure in Asia, according to a Wednesday press release.

Bitcoin surged above $40,000 as the cryptocurrency market's total value surpassed $1 trillion for the first time. The record high reflects a 100% surge for the popular token in less than one month.

Gold dipped 0.6%, to $1,906.96, at intraday lows. The US dollar strengthened against a basket of currencies and the yield on 10-year Treasurys climbed further above 1%. 

Oil prices climbed amid a drop in US inventories. West Texas Intermediate crude rose as much as 1.3%, to $51.28 per barrel. Brent crude, oil's international benchmark, gained 1.1%, to $54.90 per barrel, at intraday highs.

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