By Geoffrey Smith
Investing.com — U.S. stock markets traded mostly higher in quiet trading on Thursday, shrugging off a mixed set of economic data and winding down ahead of the Christmas holiday period.
At 2:15 PM ET (1915 GMT), the Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 245 points, or 0.7% at 36,000 points, while the S&P 500 was up 0.8% and the Nasdaq Composite was up 1%.
All three indices added to sharp gains made on Wednesday, amid a growing body of scientific evidence that the latest dominant strain of the Covid-19 virus may be significantly less dangerous than previous strains. Data from the U.K., Denmark and South Africa in the last 48 hours have all shown a reduced risk of serious illness from the so-called Omicron stream.
Earlier, the latest economic data from the U.S. showed a modest slowdown in personal spending in November, which grew only 0.6% on the month. That’s still a decent clip but is clearly down from earlier in the year, and analysts said it added to evidence suggesting that the consumer boom fueled by stimulus payments over the first 18 months of the pandemic is slowing.
The trend was also reflected in a 0.1% drop in core durable goods in November, stripping out defense- and aviation-related orders, which tend to be more volatile.
In more encouraging news, initial jobless claims continued to bounce along at a historically low 205,000 last week, indicating no softening of conditions in the labor market despite the latest increase in Covid-19 cases across the U.S.
Core prices for personal consumer expenditures, meanwhile, again showed why the Federal Reserve is pivoting faster to a tighter monetary policy stance. The Fed’s preferred measure of inflation rose by 0.5% on the month, more than the 0.4% expected, and October’s data were also revised up to show a 0.5% gain. That brought the annual rate of PCE inflation to 4.7%, up from 4.2% in October. The benchmark 10-Year U.S. Treasury yield touched 1.50% for the first time in 10 days in response.
There were few individual stock moves of note. Among the biggest was Chinese e-commerce giant JD (NASDAQ:JD).com ADRs, which fell 9.9% after long-term backer Tencent Holdings (OTC:TCEHY) said it will distribute almost all of its stake in the company, saying it was strong enough to stand on its own two feet. The move comes after months of increased scrutiny of China’s Internet giants by Beijing’s antitrust authorities, which has slashed tens of billions of dollars off their market value. Tencent ADRs rose 4.2% but are still down some 40% from their July peak.
Quidel Corporation (NASDAQ:QDEL) shares took a 17% dip after the test maker announced an acquisition of Ortho Clinical Diagnostics, as the market seems concerned about the cost. Shoe manufacturer Crocs Inc (NASDAQ:CROX) took a similar hit, dropping 14% on news of the acquisition of Heydude, with similar concerns over the price and the dilution involved.
Avocado producer Mission Produce (NASDAQ:AVO) also fell 9.9% after a disappointing quarterly update dominated by supply bottlenecks that led to spoiled shipments and lower margins.
Covid vaccine makers sold off, with Novavax Inc (NASDAQ:NVAX) leading the way with a 5% drop despite reporting that a two-dose regimen of their vaccine demonstrated “strong immune responses” against omicron and other Covid-19 variants.
Micron Technology Inc (NASDAQ:MU) led the semiconductor sector higher, as the memory chip maker approached all-time highs as investors continue to digest the company’s strong earnings report from Monday. Micron was up nearly 5% while the iShares Semiconductor ETF (NASDAQ:SOXX) was up 1.4%.
Crude Oil WTI Futures traded up nearly 1% and is poised to finish the week up 4%, rebounding from Omicron related fears last week.
Check out Investing.com’s 2022 outlook series here.
(Originally published at 9:50am ET, updated at 2:20pm)