stocks

Stock Market Today: What Lousy Job Numbers? Major Indices Shoot to New Highs

Hope springs eternal for federal COVID stimulus, helping stocks rewrite the record book Friday despite a drab November payrolls report.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics delivered a doozy of a nonfarm payrolls report Friday.

The good news: The unemployment rate dipped to 6.7% in November from 6.9%. The bad news? The U.S. added just 245,000 jobs last month – substantially lower than economists' expectations and a clear slowdown from October's revised 610,000 additions.

"It's not surprising to see a one-month pause in the rapid pace of payroll gains we have seen, with slower hiring due to temporary COVID-related reductions in activity, even if the actions fall short of the dramatic springtime lockdowns," says Rick Rieder, BlackRock's chief investment officer of global fixed income.

Some on Wall Street were a little more pointed in translating the payroll numbers, however.

"This is a disappointing report, and one that shows the third wave of the pandemic is having a bigger effect on hiring than had been thought, says Brad McMillan, chief investment officer for Commonwealth Financial Network. "This is a wake-up call for Congress and should support more federal stimulus."

Capitol Hill appears to be listening. Today it was House Speaker Nancy Pelosi weighing in, saying "there is momentum" toward a COVID-19 relief bill as the clock winds down on 2020.

Wall Street clearly put more (ahem) stock in Washington negotiations than slowing employment gains, as investors drove the Dow Jones Industrial Average (+0.8% to 30,218) to fresh-all time highs, led by Caterpillar (CAT, +4.3%), Chevron (CVX, +3.9%) and International Business Machines (IBM, +2.9%).

Other action in the stock market today:

  • The S&P 500 advanced 0.9% to hit a new high of 3,699.
  • The Nasdaq Composite broke through the ceiling, too, gaining 0.7% to 12,464.
  • The small-cap Russell 2000 reached a new peak with a 2.4% jump to 1,892.
  • Gold futures slipped a mere 0.1%, finishing at $1,840 per ounce.
  • U.S. crude oil futures improved by 0.3% to settle at $45.87 per barrel.

What Are Wall Street's Biggest Investors Buying?

We've written at various points about a "great rotation" into value stocks, and how it's expected to continue when COVID vaccines advance past the trial stages.

You're also starting to see signs of that in so-called smart money stock transactions – though in several cases, hedge funds and other billionaires are sticking with highfliers from earlier in the year.

Recently, influential investors such as Warren Buffett released new info about their latest trades, and we delved into many of the stocks these institutional investors were unloading. Now, we're digging into some of their highest-conviction positions.

Read on as we show you some of the billionaires' top stock picks for the third quarter. In some cases, the smart money added on to already large existing positions. In others, they made a statement by pushing a pile of money into new stakes.

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