U.S. Stocks Continue To Hover In Positive Territory In Mid-Day Trading

After moving to the upside early in the session, stocks remain mostly positive in mid-day trading on Wednesday. The major averages have largely offset the modest losses posted in the previous session but remain below yesterday’s record intraday highs.

Currently, the major averages continue to hover in positive territory. The Dow is up 151.89 points or 0.5 percent at 30,487.56, the Nasdaq is up 47.24 points or 0.4 percent at 12,897.47 and the S&P 500 is up 11.67 points or 0.3 percent at 3,738.71.

The strength on Wall Street comes as traders make another attempt at window dressing going into the end of the year after profit taking set in following an early advance on Tuesday.

News that U.K. regulators have approved a coronavirus vaccine developed by AstraZeneca (AZN) and the University of Oxford for emergency use has also generated some positive sentiment.

Nonetheless, the upcoming New Year’s Day holiday on Friday has kept overall trading activity relatively subdued.

Traders are also keeping an eye on developments in Washington, as lawmakers haggle over increasing stimulus checks to $2,000 from $600.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ken., blocked Democratic efforts to fast-track a House approved measure to increase the size of the checks.

McConnell has instead proposed a bill that would tie the bigger stimulus checks to the repeal of a provision that protects social media platforms and the creation of an election fraud commission.

With Democrats likely to oppose the combined package, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., described the move by McConnell as a “blatant attempt to deprive Americans of a $2,000 survival check.”

Political observers have suggested McConnell added the so-called “poison pill” to give cover to Georgia Senators seeking re-election in next week’s crucial run-offs.

On the U.S. economic front, the National Association of Realtors released a report showing a continued decrease in U.S. pending home sales in the month of November.

NAR said its pending home sales index slid 2.6 percent to 125.7 in November after falling by 0.9 percent to 129.1 in October. Economists had expected pending home sales to come in unchanged.

A pending home sale is one in which a contract was signed but not yet closed. Normally, it takes four to six weeks to close a contracted sale.

Meanwhile, a separate report from MNI Indicators showed an unexpected acceleration in the pace of growth in Chicago-area business activity in the month of December.

Sector News

Airline stocks have shown a strong move to the upside over the course of the session, driving the NYSE Arca Airline Index up by 1.8 percent.

Considerable strength also remains visible among natural gas stocks, as reflected by the 1.6 percent gain being posted by the NYSE Arca Natural Gas Index. The strength in the sector comes despite a decrease by the price of natural gas.

Semiconductor stocks are also turning in a strong performance in mid-day trading, with the Philadelphia Semiconductor Index climbing by 1.5 percent.

Steel, computer hardware and gold stocks are also seeing notable strength on the day, moving higher along with most of the other major sectors.

Other Markets

In overseas trading, stock markets across the Asia-Pacific region turned in a mixed performance during trading on Wednesday. Japan’s Nikkei 225 Index fell by 0.5 percent, while China’s Shanghai Composite Index jumped by 1.1 percent.

Meanwhile, the major European markets all moved to the downside on the day. While the U.K.’s FTSE 100 Index slid by 0.7 percent, the German DAX Index and the French CAC 40 Index dipped by 0.3 percent and 0.2 percent, respectively.

In the bond market, treasuries continue to linger near the unchanged line after closing nearly flat for two straight sessions. As a result, the yield on the benchmark ten-year note, which moves opposite of its price, is down by less than a basis point at 0.933 percent.

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