S&P 500 is little changed after fresh record close

FAN Editor

The S&P 500 was little changed Thursday after closing at a new record high in the previous session.

The benchmark index traded near the flatline. The Dow Jones Industrial Average added about 14 points. The Nasdaq Composite ticked up 0.3%.

Thursday is the second-to-last trading session of 2021. The end of the year is a historically strong period for stocks, which has been dubbed the “Santa Claus rally.”

“The volumes have been low. I’m attributing a lot of this run … in the last week to seasonality — the proverbial Santa Claus rally,” Jason Snipe, Odyssey Capital Advisors founder and chief investment officer, told CNBC’s “Halftime Report.

The S&P 500 has risen during the Santa Claus rally period — the last five trading days of the year followed by the first two sessions in January — 78.5% of the time since 1928, according to Bank of America.

“Santa has been good to investors this holiday season, and we look for another year of positive returns in 2022,” said Scott Wren, senior global market strategist at Wells Fargo Investment Institute.

Some travel-related stocks rebounded Thursday after seesawing in trading this week as investors monitor developments with the omicron Covid variant. Penn National Gaming gained 4.4%. Wynn Resorts ticked up more than 2%.

However, cruise line stocks took a hit after the CDC recommended Americans avoid cruise travel regardless of vaccination status. Norwegian Cruise Line retreated 1.4%.

Financial stocks ticked up with American Express and JPMorgan Chase among the leaders on the Dow.

Meanwhile, Biogen slid roughly 8% on Thursday after Samsung denied a report in The Korea Economic Daily that it was in talks to buy Biogen. The stock led decliners on the S&P 500 and Nasdaq Composite. Biogen shares had surged 9.5% on Wednesday on the report.

On the data front, jobless claims last week came in lower than expected, the Labor Department reported Thursday. Initial claims totaled 198,000 for the week ended Dec. 25, while economists surveyed by Dow Jones projected 205,000.

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On Wednesday the S&P 500 posted its 70th record close of the year. This year has seen the second-highest number of record closes for the benchmark index during a calendar year, trailing just 1995’s 77 record closing highs. The Dow also closed at its first high since November and saw its sixth-straight positive session.

All three major averages are up for the month of December. The S&P and Dow are on pace for a second positive month in the last three, while the Nasdaq Composite is on track for a third straight month of gains.

For the year, the S&P is up more than 27% and the Dow is up more than 19%. The Nasdaq has gained roughly 23%, while the Russell 2000 is up nearly 15%.

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