The stock market rally had modest weekly gains to cap an amazing 2020, with growth stocks generally rebounding from Monday losses. The U.K. OK’d the AstraZeneca vaccine. Alibaba (BABA) rose and several other Chinese internet stocks jumped even as Chinese regulators told Alibaba affiliate Ant Group to rein in its business. The Boeing 737 Max returned to U.S. service. Bitcoin continued its huge surge.
Stock Market Rally Finishes Amazing Year For Techs
The stock market rally showed modest weekly gains for the Dow Jones, S&P 500 index and Nasdaq composite, with growth names seeing some selling early in the week. But there were several breakouts from a variety of sectors. For the year, the major indexes advanced, but growth clearly dominated as the coronavirus pandemic slammed many real economy sectors. The Dow Jones rose 6.6% as of Dec. 30 and the S&P 500 15.5%. The Nasdaq composite soared 43.4%, nearly doubling from its March low.
Jobless Claims Fall
New claims for unemployment benefits dipped 19,000 to 787,000 in the week through Dec. 26, as the incremental hit from recent coronavirus restrictions begins to wane. Claims are now down by 105,000 since mid-December’s four-month high, yet they’re still above the 2009 peak. Including Pandemic Unemployment Assistance for gig workers and the self-employed, new claims have slipped to 1.1 million from 1.35 million in mid-December. Ongoing claims for all types of unemployment benefits remain near 20 million.
The new coronavirus stimulus package passed by Congress supplements benefits by $300 per week and extends pandemic assistance through mid-March. That should help upward of 10 millions Americans make ends meet until vaccines and warmer weather turn the coronavirus tide, allowing for labor-market healing.
Coronavirus vaccine stocks AstraZeneca (AZN) and Arcturus Therapeutics (ARCT) diverged last week on news for their experimental drugs. On Monday, AstraZeneca stock climbed higher after CEO Pascal Soriot said the drug giant had found a “winning formula” for its coronavirus vaccine, suggesting similar efficacy as the Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna vaccines. On Wednesday, U.K. regulators authorized the vaccine for emergency use in people ages 18 and older. The AstraZeneca vaccine is cheaper, easier to make and easier to store than the mRNA-based Pfizer (PFE) and Moderna (MRNA) treatments. Moderna and BioNTech (BNTX) shares continued their recent sell-off. On Tuesday, Arcturus collapsed 54% after offering a disappointing update for its vaccine candidate. In clinical testing, the drug prompted the body to generate neutralizing antibodies after a single dose — but at lower levels than rival vaccines that use two doses.
Regulators Order Ant Group To Focus On Payments
Financial regulators told Alibaba (BABA) affiliate Ant Group to refocus on payments, backing off expansions into more-lucrative lending and wealth management. Ant Group may set up a holding company to be regulated like a bank. Alibaba, which plunged 13% on Christmas Eve as regulators opened an antimonopoly probe, rebounded this past week. E-commerce rival JD.com (JD) jumped. Pinduoduo (PDD), which might be a beneficiary from a reined-in Alibaba, soared to a record high.
Boeing 737 Max Has U.S. Return
The Boeing 737 Max returned to commercial service in the U.S. on Tuesday after a 20-month grounding. American Airlines (AAL) flight 718 took off from Miami and landed in New York’s LaGuardia Airport without incident. American has scheduled two 737 Max commercial flights a day through Jan. 4. After that, it plans to phase in more 737 Max aircraft throughout January, with up to 36 departures from Miami. United Airlines (UAL) will resume 737 Max flights at its Denver and Houston hubs on Feb. 11. On Dec. 9, Brazil’s Gol Linhas Aereas Inteligentes (GOL) became the world’s first carrier to restart Boeing 737 Max commercial flights. Boeing (BA) stock edged lower.
The price of Bitcoin soared above $29,000 early Thursday, capping a huge year, rebounding from coronavirus crash lows below $5,000. Much of the gain came in the last two months. Growing mainstream acceptance among financial institutions has lifted cryptocurrencies. Also, American Express (AXP) invested in crypto trading platform FalconX. PayPal (PYPL), too, is said to be absorbing all of newly minted Bitcoin supply. And database software developer MicroStrategy (MSTR) more than doubled its Bitcoin investment to $1.125 billion.
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