U.S. Stocks Move Moderately Higher Amid Light Trading

Stocks have moved moderately higher in morning trading on Wednesday, offsetting the downturn seen over the course of the previous session. The major averages have all moved to the upside but remain below yesterday’s record intraday highs.

Currently, the major averages are hovering in positive territory. The Dow is up 130.25 points or 0.4 percent at 30,465.92, the Nasdaq is up 43.08 points or 0.3 percent at 12,893.31 and the S&P 500 is up 13.18 points or 0.4 percent at 3,740.22.

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 generate 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.

Oil service stocks are turning in some of the market’s best performances in morning trading, resulting in a 2 percent jump by the Philadelphia Oil Service Index.

The rally by oil service stocks comes amid an increase by the price of crude oil, with crude for February delivery rising $0.27 to $48.27 a barrel.

An uptick by the price of natural gas is also contributing to considerable strength among natural gas stocks, reflected by the 1.9 percent gain being posted by the NYSE Arca Natural Gas Index.

Housing, semiconductor and steel stocks are also seeing notable strength on the day, moving higher along with most of the other major sectors.

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

Meanwhile, the major European markets have moved modestly lower on the day. While the French CAC 40 Index is just below the unchanged line, the German DAX Index is down by 0.3 percent and the U.K.’s FTSE 100 Index is down by 0.4 percent.

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 0.930 percent.

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