Technology, industrial and materials sectors lead rally
US stocks closed moderately higher on Thursday, 07 December 2017 with the S&P 500 snapping a four-session losing streak on the back of gains in the technology, industrials and materials sectors. Traders focused on continued progress on tax legislation and looked ahead to the monthly jobs report due Friday.
The S&P 500 index rose 7.71 points, or 0.3%, to 2,636.98, while the Dow Jones Industrial Average added 70.59 points, or 0.3%, to 24,211.48. The tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite Index outpaced the other benchmarks and was up 36.47 points, or 0.5%, to 6,812.84.
Nine of eleven sectors settled in the green, with the consumer staples sector being the only group to finish with a sizable loss. Within the sector, Dow components Procter & Gamble and Coca-Cola dropped around 1.3% apiece.
Investors await Friday's nonfarm payrolls report for further clues on employment ahead of the Federal Reserve's two-day meeting wrapping on Wednesday next week. Markets widely expect a rate increase at that meeting and are hungry for clues about the likelihood of follow-up hikes next year.
A Friday night deadline to secure government funding kept investors on their toes on Thursday. Lawmakers are expected to agree to a short-term extension that would fund the government for another two weeks, perhaps giving the GOP just enough time to pass its tax reform bill before having to take up the issue again.
Economic data at Wall Street showed that the latest weekly initial jobless claims count totaled 236,000, while the consensus expected a reading of 240,000. Today's tally was below the unrevised prior week count of 238,000. As for continuing claims, they declined to 1.908 million from a revised count of 1.960 million (from 1.957 million).
Separately, the October Consumer Credit Report showed an increase of $20.5 billion (consensus +$17.0 billion). The September credit growth was revised to $19.2 billion from $20.8 billion.
Crude oil prices ended higher on Thursday, 07 December 2017 at Nymex, a day after dropping to a three-week low. The market's focus continues to be rising U.S. crude production. Natural gas dropped by more 5% Thursday, sending prices to the lowest finish in nearly six weeks as U.S. government data revealed a surprise climb in weekly supplies of the fuel.
On the New York Mercantile Exchange, January natural gas fell 15.9 cents, or 5.4%, to settle at $2.763 per million British thermal units. January West Texas Intermediate crude rose 73 cents, or 1.3%, to settle at $56.69 a barrel after losing 2.9% Wednesday. February Brent crude, the global benchmark, added 98 cents, or 1.6%, to $62.20 a barrel.
Bullion prices ended lower at Comex on Thursday, 07 December 2017 at Comex. Gold futures dropped on Thursday to the lowest finish since late July as bitcoin surged and U.S. stocks traded broadly higher. February gold fell $13, or 1%, to settle at $1,253.10 an ounce. March silver fell 15.3 cents, or 1% to $15.802 an ounce.
The ICE U.S. Dollar index was nearly flat on Thursday, but trade up 0.8% for the week. The yellow metal often moves inversely to the dollar and riskier assets, including stocks.
U.S. Treasuries were flat through much of the session but eventually finished below their unchanged marks, with longer-dated issues showing particular weakness. The yield on the benchmark 10-yr Treasury note jumped five basis points to 2.38%, while the 2-yr yield climbed just one basis point to 1.81%.
The Employment Situation Report for November (consensus +190,000) will be released at 8:30 ET on Friday, followed by the 10:00 ET release of October Wholesale Inventories (consensus -0.4%) and the preliminary reading of the University of Michigan Consumer Sentiment Index for December (consensus 98.8).
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