By Medha Singh
(Reuters) – The S&P 500 and the Dow were set to open near all-time highs on Thursday, extending a record-setting run as a surprise dip in weekly jobless claims reinforced confidence in the U.S. economy amid a surge in COVID-19 infections.
The Labor Department’s data showed the number of Americans filing for new unemployment claims slipped to 198,000 in the Christmas week from 205,000 a week earlier. Economists polled by Reuters had forecast 208,000 applications for the latest week.
Equities have rallied recently, albeit in some of the thinnest trading volumes that U.S. stock exchanges have seen this year, as growing evidence emerged that the Omicron variant causes less severe illness than the Delta strain.
Aiding sentiment, top U.S. infectious disease adviser Dr. Anthony Fauci said on Wednesday the surge in cases of the Omicron coronavirus variant in the United States is likely to peak by the end of January.
“The lesser severity of Omicron infection, and shortened quarantine guidance from the CDC, is consistent with our view toward incremental alleviation to supply chain disruption in early-2022,” wrote Scott Chronert, a U.S. equity strategist at Citigroup.
As Wall Street’s main indexes look to exit the year with their sharpest three-year surge since 1999, the attention will shift towards the pace of U.S. interest rate hikes in the face of soaring prices and supply chain logjams.
At 8:43 a.m. ET, Dow e-minis were up 54 points, or 0.15%, S&P 500 e-minis were up 6.75 points, or 0.14%, and Nasdaq 100 e-minis were up 19 points, or 0.12%.
Among individual stocks, Biogen Inc slipped 6.6%, giving back some gains from the prior session as Samsung BioLogics denied a media report that said the South Korean firm was in talks to buy the U.S. drugmaker.
China’s ride-hailing firm Didi Global fell 4.7% after reporting a decline in third-quarter revenue, as its domestic business took a hit from a regulatory crackdown.
(Reporting by Medha Singh in Bengaluru; editing by Uttaresh.V)