stocks

Stock Market Today: Investors Buy Stimulus Hopes, But Not With Both Hands

Investors seemed cautiously optimistic about Washington's tone on a COVID rescue package, though late news from Pfizer cut into Thursday's gains.

If Thursday's modest gains are any indication, investors are growing more optimistic about the chances of some sort of COVID stimulus package before the end of the year, but they're not counting their chickens, either.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Thursday that there was "movement in the right direction" and that a bipartisan rescue package is "within reach"; that said, Democrats and Republicans are still at odds about several key aspects.

Also, the Labor Department reported an improvement on the unemployment front: Jobless claims for last week fell from 787,000 in the week prior to 712,000, easily undercutting Bloomberg forecasts of 775,000.

But Pfizer (PFE, -1.7%) announced in the late afternoon that it expected to ship half as many COVID-19 vaccine doses in 2021 as originally planned. While that's still more than a billion doses, the news cut into the market's gains.

The Nasdaq Composite, up 0.2% to 12,377, still finished with enough juice to hit a new record high. The Dow Jones Industrial Average's attempt to reclaim 30,000 was rebuffed, however, though it still advanced by 0.3% to 29,969. The Dow was yet again led by Walgreens Boots Alliance (WBA, +7.5%) and Boeing (BA, +6.0%), the latter rising on a Ryanair purchase of 75 Boeing 737 Max aircraft.

Other action in the stock market today:

  • The S&P 500 pulled back by less than a tenth of a percent – a 2-point decline to 3,666.
  • The small-cap Russell 2000 improved by 0.5% to 1,847. 
  • Gold futures enjoyed a 0.6% improvement for the second straight day, settling at $1,841.10 per ounce.

A Head of Steam for Energy Heading Into 2021

Also advancing was crude oil, which continues to rally out of its April funk that saw prices go briefly negative.

Despite an announcement that the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and its allies will increase production beginning in January, U.S. crude oil futures finished up 0.8% to $45.64 per barrel – still well below their 2020 starting point above $60 per barrel, but high above the $20-$30 range they were mired in this spring.

As 2021 approaches, the environment for energy stocks of all stripes is starting to look rosier – green energy stocks, for instance, could benefit from a new administration. Meanwhile, the closer a vaccine (and thus some semblance of normal economic activity) gets, the better traditional oil and natural gas stocks look.

Read on as we explore some of energy's best bets for 2021 – a group of nine stocks that sector analysts are overwhelmingly bullish on as we near the new year.

Kyle Woodley was long BA as of this writing.

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