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Stocks Seeing Further Upside In Mid-Day Trading - U.S. Commentary


After moving modestly higher early in the session, stocks have seen some further upside over the course of the trading day on Thursday. The upward move on the day comes after the major averages turned in a mixed performance in the previous session.

Currently, the major averages are just off their highs of the session. The Dow is up 84.83 points or 0.4 percent at 24,225.74, the Nasdaq is up 49.99 points or 0.7 percent at 6,826.36 and the S&P 500 is up 9.61 points or 0.4 percent at 2,638.88.

The strength on Wall Street may reflect optimism about lawmakers passing a short-term spending bill to avoid a government shutdown.

With a Friday deadline looming, the House is expected to vote later in the day on a "continuing resolution" that funds the government until December 22nd.

The two-week extension would provide lawmakers with additional time to negotiate a longer-term government spending bill.

Meanwhile, traders continue to express some uncertainty about the details of the final Republican tax reform bill.

The Senate voted 51 to 47 on Wednesday in favor of a motion to go to a conference committee with the House. The vote came down strictly along party lines.

Senate and House lawmakers will need to reach an agreement addressing significant differences between their two bills.

Traders are likely to pay close attention to how the final bill deals with the corporate alternative minimum tax, which the House bill eliminates but the Senate bill maintains.

In economic news, the Labor Department released a report unexpectedly showing a modest decrease in first-time claims for U.S. unemployment benefits in the week ended December 2nd.

The report said initial jobless claims edged down to 236,000, a decrease of 2,000 from the previous week's unrevised level of 238,000. The drop surprised economists, who had expected jobless claims to inch up to 240,000.

Later in the day, the Federal Reserve is due to release its report on consumer credit in the month of October. Consumer credit is expected to increase by $17.5 billion.

Sector News

Biotechnology stocks have moved significantly higher over the course of the trading session, resulting in a 1.9 percent jump by the NYSE Arca Biotechnology Index. The advance by the index comes after it closed lower for three consecutive sessions.

Within the biotech sector, Sage Therapeutics (SAGE) is posting a substantial gain after its Phase 2 study of SAGE-217 showed a statistically significant mean reduction in the Hamilton Rating Scale for Depression.

Considerable strength is also visible among brokerage stocks, as reflected by the 1.4 percent gain being posted by the NYSE Arca Broker/Dealer Index. Virtu Financial (VIRT) and Interactive Brokers (IBKR) are posting standout gains.

Internet, electronic storage, semiconductor and housing stocks are also seeing notable strength, while tobacco stocks have come under pressure on the day.

Other Markets

In overseas trading, stock markets across the Asia-Pacific region moved mostly higher during trading on Thursday. Japan's Nikkei 225 Index surged up by 1.5 percent, while Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index climbed by 0.3 percent.

Meanwhile, the major European markets turned in a mixed performance on the day. While the U.K.'s FTSE 100 Index fell by 0.4 percent, the French CAC 40 Index edged up by 0.2 percent and the German DAX Index rose by 0.4 percent.

In the bond market, treasuries are showing a lack of direction after moving notably higher over the two previous 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 2.324 percent.

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