stocks

Stock Market Today: Jobs Data Weighs on Stocks, But Nasdaq Hits New High

The Nasdaq cleared its September highs Wednesday despite a second straight week of rising unemployment claims that slowed the other major indices.

After vaccine euphoria drove several major indices to all-time highs earlier this week, COVID realities led to a more mixed session heading into the Thanksgiving holiday.

The Labor Department released weekly unemployment data a day early, reporting a second consecutive week of rising filings, to 778,000 last week — a number that remains significantly higher than the pre-pandemic record of just under 700,000 in 1982.

Barclays Investment Bank analysts think a particular nuance is worthy of note, however.

"We continue to believe declines in claims reflect expiring benefits from the usual state programs, and not necessarily elevated re-hiring," write Barclays' Michael Gapen and Pooja Sriram. "In the post-lockdown period, we have generally drawn signals from continuing claims about the pace of re-hiring and changes in labor market conditions. However, we now believe that a sizable portion of the recent week-to-week decline in continuing claims reflects the expiration of benefits under state programs, which generally last up to 26 weeks."

Meanwhile, the U.S. reported a record number of COVID-related hospitalizations, with 88,080 such cases straining the nation’s healthcare infrastructure and personnel.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average, weighed down by a 5.4% decline in Salesforce.com (CRM) after the Wall Street Journal reported it has been in talks to buy workplace-communications company Slack Technologies (WORK, +37.6%), declined 0.6% to 29,872.

However, gains by the likes of Amazon.com (AMZN, +2.2%) and PayPal (PYPL, +4.1%) helped lead the Nasdaq Composite 0.5% higher to a record-high 12,094.

Other action in the stock market today:

  • The S&P 500 closed with a small 0.2% loss to 3,629.
  • The Russell 2000 also fell from all-time highs, declining 0.5% to 1,845.
  • Gold futures, mired in a nasty slump, managed to eke out a 0.1% improvement to finish at $1,805.50 per ounce.
  • U.S. crude oil futures climbed 1.8% to eight-month highs of $45.71 per barrel.

And remember: The stock market will be closed Thursday in observance of Thanksgiving Day.

A Bumpy Road Ahead? If So, Prioritize Shock Absorbers

Today's decline is a reminder that even the forward-looking market will hit some speed bumps along the way to a vaccine and a return to normal. Expect volatility for at least the next few months, and consider stocks offering stability and income.

The Dividend Aristocrats remain the gold standard for steady total returns, given records of dividend growth across several bull and bear markets alike. It’s worth looking at aggressive dividend growers as well, just given what their generosity says about their underlying financials.

And then there are our personal favorites: The Kiplinger Dividend 15. This group of 15 income-oriented picks addresses several types of income needs, whether it’s high yield, dividend growth or just rock-solid payments for those most concerned with stable payouts.

Read on as we catch up on these 15 dividend stocks, which have made it through 2020 with their distributions fully intact.

Kyle Woodley was long AMZN and CRM as of this writing.

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