stocks

Stock Market Today: Flicker of Stimulus Hope Lifts Stocks

Reports that Sen. Mitch McConnell is willing to negotiate with Democrats on COVID stimulus helped stocks climb back into the black Thursday.

Stocks started Thursday the same way they ended Wednesday – weakly – but got a little pep in their step after Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said that his Republican counterpart, Mitch McConnell, has agreed to resume stimulus negotiations.

The market was spooked early by initial jobless claims, which actually increased by 31,000 to 742,000 during the week ended Nov. 14.

"The rise went against our and consensus expectations for a decline in claims and paints a picture of some loss in labor market momentum in mid-November," say Barclays Investment Bank's Michael Gapen and Jonathan Millar. But the pair adds, "Despite the increase in this week's initial claims data, the four-week moving average in initial claims fell to 742k, down from 756k in the prior week."

Meanwhile, America's coronavirus death toll surpassed 250,000, and 1 million new cases have been reported in the past week alone, prompting the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to recommend against traveling for the Thanksgiving holiday.

That held back some of the value and cyclical areas of the market that had been advancing of late, and instead, tech led the day. The Nasdaq Composite closed 0.9% higher to 11,904, helped by gains from the likes of Fiserv (FISV, +4.7%) and Advanced Micro Devices (AMD, +3.6%).

Other action in the stock market today:

  • The Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 0.2% to 29,483.
  • The S&P 500 improved by 0.4% to 3,581.
  • The small-cap Russell 2000 finished 0.8% higher, to 1,784.
  • U.S. oil futures fell 0.3%, settling at $44.20 per barrel.
  • Gold futures dropped 0.9% to $1,856.80 per ounce.

Healthcare: Center Stage in 2021?

One thing seems certain as 2020 begins to wind down: COVID likely will be one of the major market factors of 2021, too. Even if a vaccine were approved for full use tomorrow, it would still take months for distribution to begin, and far longer to inoculate much of the U.S., let alone the rest of the world.

So it's likely, then, that the healthcare sector will remain in focus for investors.

Healthcare is widely praised as a "go-anywhere" sector given the sheer necessity of its products and services – it can hold up when the bears bear down, and join in when the bulls start to charge. And investors have a wide array of ways to participate in healthcare's gains that can suit just about any appetite.

Diversified healthcare mutual funds can defray risk across dozens or hundreds of stocks. But if you don't mind risk, you can swing for the fences with potent biotech stocks.

Fortunately, 2021 appears to have room for healthcare stocks of every stripe. Read on as we dig into some of the sector's most attractive opportunities as you begin to adjust your own portfolios for the year ahead.

Kyle Woodley was long AMD as of this writing.

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