Wall Street hits new record highs amid stimulus hopes

NEW YORK, Dec. 17 (Xinhua) — Wall Street’s major averages closed at new record highs on Thursday, boosted by hopes for additional U.S. fiscal stimulus.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 148.83 points, or 0.49 percent, to 30,303.37. The S&P 500 was up 21.31 points, or 0.58 percent, to 3,722.48. The Nasdaq Composite Index increased 106.56 points, or 0.84 percent, to 12,764.75. All the three major indexes notched closing records.

Nine of the 11 primary S&P 500 sectors closed higher, with real estate and materials up 1.21 percent and 1.18 percent, respectively, outpacing the rest. Energy and communication services, however, struggled.

U.S.-listed Chinese companies traded mostly higher, with six of the top 10 stocks by weight in the S&P U.S. Listed China 50 index ending the day on an upbeat note.

U.S. Democratic and Republican lawmakers have made progress in the negotiations on the long-awaited next round of COVID-19 relief, with leaders on both sides announcing progress on Wednesday.

The news came as COVID-19 infections continued to surge across the United States. The country has registered more than 17.1 million cases with around 310,000 related deaths as of Thursday afternoon, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.

Amid COVID-19 spikes, the U.S. economic recovery seems to be losing momentum. Democratic and Republican lawmakers have been deadlocked for months over the size and scope of the next round of relief package.

“With the rise in coronavirus cases, and subsequent new restrictions being put in place to stop the spread, people and businesses desperately need a financial lifeline to get them through this,” Kevin Matras, executive vice president at Zacks Investment Research, said in a note Thursday.

“But the market is transfixed on the fate of the stimulus package. And the sooner Congress can get this done the better,” he added.

Meanwhile, the latest data showed the number of Americans filing for unemployment benefits remained elevated amid the pandemic shock.

U.S. initial jobless claims, a rough way to measure layoffs, rose to 885,000 in the week ending Dec. 12, following an upwardly revised 862,000, the Department of Labor reported Thursday. A Bloomberg survey of economists had called for 818,000 initial state claims.

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