A trader works on the trading floor on the last day of trading before Christmas at the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in Manhattan, New York City, December 23, 2021.
Andrew Kelly | Reuters
U.S. stock futures were little changed early Wednesday morning following a mixed session as traders continued to assess the threat of the omicron Covid-19 variant.
Futures tied to the Dow Jones Industrial Average were up 18 points. S&P 500 futures gained 4 points, and Nasdaq 100 futures advanced 0.2%.
There have been more than 4.1 million Covid cases confirmed in the U.S. this month, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. That’s well above November’s tally of 2.54 million. The country’s seven-day average of cases is also at 231,888 cases, more than triple the mean from Nov. 27.
However, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently shortened its isolation recommendation for people who test positive from 10 days to five if they don’t have symptoms. Research from South Africa also shows that omicron infections can boost immunity against the delta variant.
Stocks were under pressure in late November, when news of the omicron variant first broke. They have since rebounded, however, with the S&P 500 up 4.8% for December.
Virtus Investment Partners’ Joe Terranova told CNBC’s “Closing Bell” that the market has shown resiliency in the past few weeks, as traders weigh the omicron variant and potentially tighter monetary policy from the Federal Reserve next year.
He noted, though, that the “risk profile of the market is clearly changing” due to the potential for higher volatility in the new year.
The market is “gravitating toward a more qualitative holding,” Terranova said. “I don’t think the market wants the speculative areas in which investors have been rewarded the last couple of years. That’s the hyper-growth stocks, the high P/E, the crypto, the cannabis [names].”
During the regular trading session, the Dow notched its fifth straight day of gains, rising more than 90 points. The S&P 500 eked out an intraday record before closing lower on the day. The Nasdaq Composite lagged, falling 0.6%.
Tuesday’s moves are taking place during the “Santa Claus rally” period, which encompass the last five trading days of December and the first five of January. This is a historically strong period for the market, with the S&P 500 averaging a return of 1.7% since 1928.
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