Dow, S&P 500 Firmly Positive In Mid-Day Trading, Nasdaq Posting Modest Gain

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After showing an early move to the upside, stocks remain mostly higher in mid-day trading on Wednesday. The Dow and the S&P 500 are firmly in positive territory, while the tech-heavy Nasdaq is posting a more modest gain.

Currently, the Dow and the S&P 500 are hovering near their best levels of the day. The Dow is up 227.74 points or 0.8 percent at 30,243.25, the S&P 500 is up 19.69 points or 0.5 percent at 3,706.95 and the Nasdaq is up 10.06 points or 0.1 percent at 12,817.98.

The strength on Wall Street comes following the release of a slew of U.S. economic data, including a report from the Labor Department showing a significant pullback in first-time claims for unemployment benefits in the week ended December 19th.

The report said initial jobless claims slid to 803,000, a decrease of 89,000 from the previous week's revised level of 892,000.

Economists had expected jobless claims to come in unchanged compared to the 885,000 originally reported for the previous week.

The unexpected pullback came after jobless claims reached their highest level since early September in the previous week.

The Commerce Department also released a report showing new orders for U.S. manufactured durable goods increased by more than expected in the month of November.

Buying interest has remained somewhat subdued, however, as separate reports from the Commerce Department showed steep drops in personal income and new home sales.

Uncertainty about a coronavirus relief package approved by Congress has also led to cautious trading after President Donald Trump slammed the bill as a "disgrace" in a video posted on Twitter on Tuesday.

Trump called on Congress to amend the bill to increase the direct payments to individuals to $2,000 from $600 and "get rid of the wasteful and unnecessary items."

Democrats expressed support for increasing the size of the direct payments, but the idea is likely to face resistance in the Republican-controlled Senate.

The stimulus is attached to a government spending bill that Trump needs to sign by Monday to avoid a government shutdown.

Sector News

Energy stocks are turning in some of the market's best performances in mid-day trading, benefiting from a sharp increase by the price of crude oil. Crude for February delivery is jumping $48.41 a barrel.

Reflecting the strength in the energy sector, the Philadelphia Oil Service Index is up by 3.5 percent, the NYSE Arca Natural Gas Index is up by 3.2 percent and the NYSE Arca Oil Index is up by 3 percent.

Substantial strength also remains visible among airline stocks, as reflected by the 3.4 percent spike by the NYSE Arca Airline Index. The index is bouncing off its lowest closing level in a month.

Banking stocks have also shown a significant move to the upside on the day, driving the KBW Bank Index up by 2.9 percent to its best intraday level in nearly ten months.

Gold, steel and computer hardware 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 moved mostly higher during trading on Wednesday. Japan's Nikkei 225 Index rose by 0.3 percent, while China's Shanghai Composite Index advanced by 0.8 percent.

The major European markets also moved to the upside on the day. While the U.K.'s FTSE 100 Index climbed by 0.7 percent, the French CAC 40 Index and the German DAX Index surged up by 1.1 percent and 1.3 percent, respectively.

In the bond market, treasuries have climbed off their worst levels but remain in negative territory. As a result, the yield on the benchmark ten-year note, which moves opposite of its price, is up by 3.7 basis points at 0.955 percent.

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