US markets close at record highs to cap off a tumultuous year

“When you think about the year we’re glad it’s over, but it was also unbelievable in a lot of different ways,” said Ryan Detrick, senior market strategist at LPL Financial in Charlotte, North Carolina. “This is the first year in history that the S&P was down 30 per cent for the year at one point and managed to end higher.

“It is a good reminder for investors to have a longer time horizon and when bear markets arise they likely should be viewed as opportunities and not a time to panic, which is easier said than done,” Detrick added.

Initial jobless claims unexpectedly dropped for the second straight week, according to the Labor Department, but remain elevated as the economy stumbles through a COVID-19 resurgence.

President Donald Trump was expected to fly back to Washington on Thursday to pick up his fight with Congress over a defense bill and stimulus checks.

Nations around the world struggled to deploy vaccines to end the global health crisis. About 2.8 million Americans have been inoculated so far, falling well short of the year-end goal of 20 million.

Worldwide, deaths from COVID-19 have surpassed 1.8 million. In the United States, more than 340,000 have died from the disease.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 196.92 points, or 0.65 per cent, to 30,606.48, the S&P 500 gained 24.03 points, or 0.64 per cent, to 3,756.07 and the Nasdaq Composite added 18.28 points, or 0.14 per cent, to 12,888.28.

European stocks closed lower as tighter coronavirus restrictions in the UK and higher US tariffs on some EU products dampened optimism on the last day of the Brexit transition.

The pan-European STOXX 600 index lost 0.30 per cent and MSCI’s gauge of stocks across the globe gained 0.15 per cent.

Oil prices advanced on hopes of rebounding demand, but US and Brent crude prices ended 2020 down 20.5 per cent, and 21.5 per cent, respectively.

US crude rose 0.25 per cent to settle at $US48.52 per barrel and Brent settled at $US51.80 per barrel, up 0.33 per cent on the day.

US Treasury yields dipped, pulling the yield curve flatter, as thin volume exaggerated market moves.

Benchmark 10-year notes last rose 3/32 in price to yield 0.9165 per cent, from 0.926 per cent late on Wednesday.

The 30-year bond last rose 12/32 in price to yield 1.6462 per cent, from 1.662 per cent late on Wednesday.

The US dollar rose against a basket of world currencies, but ended its worst year since 2017 as expectations for further fiscal aid and easy monetary policy from the US Federal Reserve prompted investors to shun the greenback.

The US dollar index rose 0.24 per cent, with the euro down 0.6 per cent to $1.2221.

The Japanese yen weakened 0.06 per cent versus the greenback at 103.26 per dollar, while sterling was last trading at $US1.3673, up 0.37 per cent on the day.

Gold prices gained as safe-haven metal notched its best year in a decade due to economic uncertainties caused by the pandemic.

Spot gold added 0.2 per cent to $US1,897.88 an ounce.

Additional reporting by Tommy Wilkes in London, Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Dan Grebler

Reuters

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