Dow set to add to records in first full day of Biden administration

Dow set to add to records in first full day of Biden administration

U.S. stock benchmarks headed modestly higher Thursday morning and are set to build on a record run-up, a day after the inauguration of President Joe Biden, as investors await clarity on the prospects for the new commander-in-chief’s legislative agenda to contend with the COVID-19 pandemic and a rocky economy.

Corporate results from the likes of Alcoa and United Airlines and others were also being parsed as investors are keenly watching if earnings help to justify share prices seen by many as lofty against the pandemic backdrop.

How are stock benchmarks performing?

On Wednesday, the Dow
the Nasdaq Composite Index
the S&P 500

and the small-capitalization Russell 2000 index

closed at record highs.

What’s driving the market?

U.S. equity markets have been buttressed at record heights by the prospects of greater fiscal aid to tackle the economic damage from COVID-19 and better strategies under Biden to vaccinate Americans at a more rapid clip and limit the spread of the pandemic.

The U.S. has the highest reported death toll at 46,162, or about a fifth of the global total. The country added at least 184,453 new cases on Wednesday according to a New York Times tracker , and counted at least 4,357 deaths. 

Investors remain fixated on the 46th president’s proposed $1.9 trillion COVID relief package, a day after he took office. It is unclear that he will be able to get his bill through Congress in its current form without amendments.

Optimism surrounding equities has largely rested on further funds to rebuild the economy and on the hope that Biden will be able to mend political divisions that widened during the past four years.

“The new US President will try to heal domestic issues with respect to economic and social divisions. In addition to that, his handling of international relationships is likely to be much more tactful than his predecessor Mr. Trump,” wrote David Madden, market analyst at CMC Markets UK, in a daily research note.

Looking ahead, market participants will be watching for the European Central Bank latest policy statement set to be released at 7:45 a.m. Eastern, though the central bank is expected to keep policy steady.

ECB President Christine Lagarde will hold a press conference at 8:30 a.m. ET, where investors may watch for the policy maker to discuss the health of the eurozone and path of the virus in the region.

In U.S. economic reports, investors await the latest weekly report on jobless benefit claims for the week ended Jan. 16, as well as data on housing starts and permits and an update on manufacturing activity in the Federal Reserve’s Philadelphia district, the Philly Fed index, all due at 8:30 a.m.

Which stocks are in focus?
  • Alcoa Corp

     shares fell in the extended session Wednesday after the aluminum company’s quarterly results topped Wall Street expectations but it warned that performance could worsen should its markets not recover.

  • United Airlines Holdings Inc.

    stock in focus after Q4 results late Wednesday.

  • Alaska Air Group Inc

     disclosed Thursday that it will receive $533 million after it reached agreement last week with the U.S. Treasury on an extension of the Payroll Support Program (PSP).

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