Stock futures rise as Biden prepares to sign more orders addressing pandemic

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Stock futures increased Thursday morning, pointing to a higher open after touching record levels a day earlier.

Each of the S&P 500, Dow and Nasdaq ended the regular session at record closing highs, as traders looked ahead to the additional fiscal stimulus and other government spending likely to occur under President Joe Biden’s administration. Biden began his term on Wednesday by signing a number of executive orders to address the COVID-19 pandemic, enable environmental protection initiatives and roll back many of the Trump administration’s immigration policies, among other measures. He is also poised to sign additional executive orders on Thursday.

The S&P 500 posted its best Inauguration Day return since Ronald Reagan’s second inauguration in 1985, according to an analysis by LPL Financial. And the index’s move from Election Day to Inauguration Day was its best ever, with the S&P 500 climbing more than 14% between Nov. 3 and Wednesday’s close.

“I’ve actually been very surprised by how the market has really brushed aside all the political issues that we’ve had in the first three weeks of the year. I would have assumed coming into the year that had the Democrats swept the Senate, the House and won the presidency that the markets would have sold off on the back of a potential increase in the corporate tax rate in the future,” John Petrides, portfolio manager at Tocqueville Asset Management, told Yahoo Finance. “Clearly I think investors are focused on the short term and Biden’s go-big policy on fiscal stimulus, which is clearly much needed as the COVID cases continue to rip through the U.S.”

Other strategists agreed that the prospects for additional stimulus have been a key driver of the pre-Inauguration spike. RBC Capital Markets on Wednesday introduced a price target of 4,100 on the S&P 500 for 2021, implying additional upside of about 6.4% from Wednesday’s close, to become the latest Wall Street firm to forecast another annual rise in the stock market this year.

Others noted that key personnel within the Biden Cabinet, including his nominee for Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, are likely to help advance additional support out of Washington. The vote for Yellen’s confirmation is set to be taken up for a Senate floor vote as soon as Thursday, after her hearing before the Senate Finance Committee took place on Tuesday.

“We’re going to see not just bandaid stimulus which we’ve seen in the past, but real job creation stimulus,” Peter Tchir, head of macro strategy at Academy Securities, told Yahoo Finance. “And I don’t think we can underestimate the impact of Yellen. The market really started rallying [Tuesday] when Yellen was speaking … I think she’s going to be very aggressive in her policies, she’s going to figure out more ways to work with the Fed, so I think there’s a lot of optimism on what she could do as well as part of this administration, assuming the confirmation goes fine.”

8:53 a.m. ET: New homebuilding reaches fastest pace in 14 years in December

Housing starts and building permits each accelerated in December, as demand for new homes outpaced supply and drove a surge in residential construction.

Housing starts jumped 5.8% in December over November to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.669 million, the Commerce Department said Thursday. This marked the highest level since 2006, and handily topped estimates for a rise of less than 1% to a 1.56 million rate, according to Bloomberg data. In November, housing starts had increased 3.1% month-over-month.

Building permits, which indicate future homebuilding, unexpectedly spiked in December by 4.5%, reaching a seasonally adjusted annualized rate of 1.709 million. Consensus economists had expected a drop of 1.7% in permits, following November’s revised 5.9% monthly advance.

8:30 a.m. ET: Jobless claims declined more than expected last week, but still held at elevated levels

New weekly unemployment claims retreated only slightly from last week’s elevated level as the coronavirus pandemic continued to grip the U.S. economy.

Initial unemployment claims totaled 900,000 for the week ended January 16, or better than the 935,000 and the prior week’s revised 926,000. The four-week moving average for new claims jumped by nearly 24,000 to 848,000 this week.

Continuing claims, a measure of the total number of individuals still receiving regular state unemployment benefits, improved more than expected last week and have remained on a mostly steady downtrend since peaking at nearly 25 million in May. These totaled 5.054 million during the week ended January 9, beating estimates for 5.300 million expected and falling from a revised 5.181 million from the prior week.

7:18 a.m. ET Thursday: Stock futures rise

Here’s where markets were trading as of 7:18 a.m. ET Thursday:

  • S&P 500 futures (ES=F): 3,855.50, up 10.5 points or 0.27%

  • Dow futures (YM=F): 31,173.00, up 77 points or 0.25%

  • Nasdaq futures (NQ=F): 13,355.5, up 61.25 points or 0.46%

  • Crude (CL=F): -$0.30 (-0.56%) to $53.01 a barrel

  • Gold (GC=F): +$4.30 (+0.23%) to $1,870.80 per ounce

  • 10-year Treasury (^TNX): unchanged to yield 1.0900%

6:04 p.m. ET Wednesday: Stock futures drift

Here were the main moves in markets, as of 6:04 p.m. ET Wednesday.

  • S&P 500 futures (ES=F): 3,843.00, down 2 points or 0.05%

  • Dow futures (YM=F): 31,085.00, down 11 points or 0.04%

  • Nasdaq futures (NQ=F): 13,269.5, up 2.25 points or 0.02%

US President Joe Biden sits in the Oval Office as he signs a series of orders at the White House in Washington, DC, after being sworn in at the US Capitol on January 20, 2021. - US President Joe Biden signed a raft of executive orders to launch his administration, including a decision to rejoin the Paris climate accord. The orders were aimed at reversing decisions by his predecessor, reversing the process of leaving the World Health Organization, ending the ban on entries from mostly Muslim-majority countries, bolstering environmental protections and strengthening the fight against Covid-19. (Photo by Jim WATSON / AFP) (Photo by JIM WATSON/AFP via Getty Images)
US President Joe Biden sits in the Oval Office as he signs a series of orders at the White House in Washington, DC, after being sworn in at the US Capitol on January 20, 2021. – US President Joe Biden signed a raft of executive orders to launch his administration, including a decision to rejoin the Paris climate accord. The orders were aimed at reversing decisions by his predecessor, reversing the process of leaving the World Health Organization, ending the ban on entries from mostly Muslim-majority countries, bolstering environmental protections and strengthening the fight against Covid-19. (Photo by Jim WATSON / AFP) (Photo by JIM WATSON/AFP via Getty Images)

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