Stocks Strengthen in Early US Trading Even After Jobs Data Miss; COVID-19 Stimulus in Focus

9:54AM ET 12/04/2020 MT Newswires
Stocks clung to gains in early trading on Friday even after disappointing data on the US labor market, as hopes for another round of COVID-19 stimulus bolstered sentiment that's helped the Standard & Poor's 500 mark record highs this week.

Before the bell, the Bureau of Labor Statistics said nonfarm payrolls rose by 245,000 last month, slower than October's revised pace of 610,000 jobs and missing the Econoday consensus for 500,000. The report comes as November saw a surge in COVID-19 in the US, driving local restrictions in several regions of the country.

The disease's spread helped spur lawmakers in Washington, DC, to make another attempt at a fiscal stimulus package after talks deadlocked earlier in the fall. President-elect Joe Biden said in an interview on CNN he supported a $908 billion proposal being debated currently.

The S&P 500 ended at a record high on Wednesday before edging slightly lower on Thursday after the Wall Street Journal reported that Pfizer (PFE) trimmed its COVID-19 vaccine rollout targets and now plans to ship half of the 100 million vaccines it had originally planned for the year on the back of supply-chain problems. Pfizer dipped 0.1% on Friday and its partner, BioNTech (BNTX), was 3.4% lower. Moderna (MRNA), which is also in the race for a vaccine, fell 3.8%.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average crossed back above the 30,000 that it touched in late November, as more than two-thirds of its components advanced early Friday. Chevron (CVX) added 2.2% in the best gain as oil prices firmed following an agreement Thursday among top crude producers to ease their output cuts by 500,000 barrels a day from January. Exxon Mobil (XOM) gained 2.3% and Occidental Petroleum (OXY) jumped 5.9%.

In company news, Ulta Beauty (ULTA) fell 2.2% after the retailer reported fiscal third-quarter sales just below analysts' expectations. Rexnord (RXN) firmed 1.1% after saying it would acquire Hadrian Inc., a provider of washroom partitions and lockers, for terms that weren't provided.

In morning trading, the Dow and the S&P 500 were both us about 0.4% while the Nasdaq Composite firmed 0.2%.