Despite thin trading markets edge higher as investors monitor Omicron

U.S. stock benchmarks finished higher Monday, as consumer spending during the holidays and gains in technology and energy shares helped to push the S&P 500 to records. Equity indexes booked gains even as travel-related names slumped after surging COVID-19 cases triggered hundreds of U.S. flights to be scrapped over the holiday weekend. The S&P 500 SPX rose 1.4% to a record 4,791.19 finish, with the broad-market benchmark also setting an intraday record at 4,791.49. The Dow Jones Industrial Average DJIA 351.82 points to end at 36,302.38, its fourth-highest close ever while the Nasdaq Composite Index COMP climbed 217.89 points closing at 15,871.26. Focus on the U.S turns to the U.S initial jobless claims report due on Thursday.

Stocks in Europe edged higher and U.S. equity futures were steady on Tuesday as traders evaluated the resilience of the global recovery to a record spike in coronavirus cases. The Stoxx Europe 600 Index gained 0.6%, extending last week’s rally and hitting its highest level in five weeks. Tech shares led the gains, tracking a surge in the Nasdaq 100 Index. Although the Stoxx Europe 600 rose 0.5% as of 9:09 a.m. London time, Coronavirus infections have spiked across the globe over the weekend, with France reporting a daily record of more than 100,000 new cases. Equities in the region are having a bumpy end of year as market participants weigh economic prospects amid the spread of the new omicron variant and as central banks have turned more hawkish in response to surging inflation. With only a few sessions left in the year, Europe’s main index is up 22% in 2021, and less than 1% from its record high.

China is seen adding stimulus to stabilize growth next year, with various ministries vowing more proactive measures to reverse the slowdown caused by a worsening property slump, weak consumption and the coronavirus. China’s economy has slowed in recent months, with the property market slump hitting debt-laden developers and undercutting industrial output, home prices falling, and investment and private consumption weak. The emergence of the omicron variant is an added threat to the economy as it could hit demand for exports and tighter restrictions at home could further damage spending. The People’s Bank of China will use a variety of monetary policy tools to keep liquidity “reasonable and ample” and ensure credit growth is stable, according to a statement Monday evening after the bank’s planning conference for 2022. On the same day, the finance ministry said it would proactively roll-out fiscal policies to stabilize growth, with greater cuts in taxes and fees planned for 2022.

Oil prices rose today, Dec. 28, with Brent crude approaching $79, amid traders’ assessment of the economic risks resulting from the outbreak of COVID-19. Venezuela announced that it pumped the largest amount of oil per day since the imposition of US sanctions two years ago, as the state-owned company Petroleos de Venezuela SA produced more than one million barrels on Dec. 24, according to a tweet. Concerns about the pandemic are growing, with cases of COVID-19 around the world reaching a daily record yesterday, with more than 1.44 million infections. Brent crude oil futures for February delivery rose 0.38%, or 30 cents, at $78.90/bbl at 08:56am GMT. The US West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures rose 0.46%, or 35 cents, to $75.92/bbl.