US stocks climb amid optimism around Biden’s COVID-19 plan and stimulus push

NYSE traders
  • US stocks gained on Thursday as investors cheered the Biden administration's plan to better tackle the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • President Joe Biden on Wednesday revealed plans to accelerate testing, vaccine rollouts, and reopenings.
  • Initial jobless claims fell to 900,000 last week, according to the Labor Department. Economists expected claims to total 935,000.
  • Watch major indexes update live here.

US equities rose on Thursday as investors bet on the Biden administration to accelerate the nation's economic recovery.

President Joe Biden unveiled new plans for how the government will tackle the coronavirus pandemic on Thursday. The president aims to sign 10 executive orders and invoke the Defense Production Act to accelerate testing, vaccine distribution, and reopen schools and businesses.

Efforts to better curb on the virus's spread are set to join a push for additional fiscal support. The president called for a $1.9 trillion stimulus package earlier in the month that includes $1,400 direct payments, expanded unemployment insurance, and relief for states and municipalities.

Republicans are likely to oppose the measure, having previously balked at passing new aid for governments. Still, expectations for another large-scale spending bill have led analysts to lift growth forecasts and S&P 500 targets.

Here's where US indexes stood shortly after the 9:30 a.m. ET open on Thursday:

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Tech stocks continued to climb after Netflix's healthy earnings beat boosted indexes the session prior. Equities hit record highs on Wednesday as Biden's inauguration amplified hopes for fresh fiscal stimulus and a stronger economic recovery. The jump was the largest Inauguration Day return in nearly a century.

In economic data, weekly filings for unemployment benefits totaled an unadjusted 900,000 last week as the labor market's recovery continued to push up against elevated COVID-19 cases. Economists surveyed by Bloomberg expected claims to reach 935,000. 

Continuing claims, which track Americans receiving unemployment-insurance payments, fell to 5.1 million for the week that ended January 9. That came in below the median economist estimate of 5.3 million claims.

"Fiscal stimulus prospects, along with broader vaccine diffusion, are pointing to a brightening labor market outlook but with the pandemic still raging, claims are poised to remain elevated in the near-term," Lydia Boussour, lead US economist at Oxford Economics, said.

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United Airlines sank after its fourth-quarter report missed Wall Street expectations for revenue and profit. The company cautioned that, despite vaccines being distributed nationwide, the pandemic will weigh on travel activity throughout 2021.

Bitcoin slid below the $32,000 support level as sell-offs cut further into the cryptocurrency's bullish momentum. The token hit a 24-hour low of $31,310.75 before paring some losses.

Gold dipped as much as 0.7%, to $1,858.42 per ounce. The dollar weakened against a basked of Group-of-20 currencies and Treasury yields climbed slightly.

Oil prices fell but remained above the $50 support level. West Texas Intermediate crude dropped as much as 1.1%, to $52.75 per barrel. Brent crude, oil's international standard, declined 1%, to $55.51 per barrel, at intraday lows.

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