Wall Street at records as stocks gain on vaccine, stimulus optimism
Investors pushed stock markets higher Friday with US equities ending at all-time highs as continued optimism over vaccines and signs of progress on new US stimulus offset worries about rising coronavirus cases.
All three major US stock indices finished at fresh records after European bourses also posted gains.
Oil prices also climbed to nine-month highs following the latest production agreement by petroleum exporters.
The rally on Wall Street came even following government data showing the jobs recovery stalled, as US employers added just 245,000 new jobs in November.
And though the unemployment rate dipped to 6.7 percent from 6.9 percent, the lowest since the pandemic struck, that was due to Americans leaving the workforce.
Noting that new Covid-19 cases are "raging" in the US, FHN Financial's Chris Low warned that "job growth will be sluggish for the next three or four months, minimum."
The United States recorded more than 210,000 new cases in a 24-hour stretch to Thursday evening, and more than 2,900 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University.
Still, Low said US approval of the first coronavirus vaccine could come as soon as next week.
And analysts said the weak jobs data provides further impetus for Congress to enact a new stimulus package, and Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi have revived efforts to hash out a deal for more aid.
President-elect Joe Biden reiterated the need for immediate support, saying "if we don't act now, the future will be very bleak. Americans need help and they need it now."
Neil Wilson, chief market analyst at Markets.com, said the soft employment report "is seen as a positive for stocks since it ought to incentivize Congress to pass a stimulus bill this year."
Brexit talks ongoing
Meanwhile, the British pound gyrated as traders monitored the latest in months-long talks on a post-Brexit trade deal between London and the European Union.
British and EU negotiators broke off their talks without agreement Friday and handed off the task of clearing the logjam to Prime Minister Boris Johnson and EU chief Ursula von der Leyen.
The leaders will hold a telephone call on Saturday after their envoys Michel Barnier and David Frost broke up after an arduous week of day and night meetings without a breakthrough.
Oil prices ended at their highest level since March, with Brent futures close to $50 a barrel, after OPEC and its oil-producing allies struck a deal on Thursday to offer flexibility over changes to production in the coming months.
But "obvious divisions between members of the group mean the question marks over the future direction of oil supply are as large as ever," said Caroline Bain, chief commodities economist at Capital Economics.
Key figures around 2200 GMT
New York - Dow: UP 0.8 percent at 30,218.26 (close)
New York - S&P 500: UP 0.9 percent at 3,699.12 (close)
New York - Nasdaq: UP 0.7 percent at 12,464.23 (close)
London - FTSE 100: UP 0.9 percent at 6,550.23 (close)
Frankfurt - DAX 30: UP 0.4 percent at 13,298.96 (close)
Paris - CAC 40: UP 0.6 percent at 5,609.15 (close)
EURO STOXX 50: UP 0.6 percent at 3,539.27 (close)
Tokyo - Nikkei 225: DOWN 0.2 percent at 26,751.24 (close)
Hong Kong - Hang Seng: UP 0.4 percent at 26,835.92 (close)
Shanghai - Composite: UP 0.1 percent at 3,444.58 (close)
Euro/dollar: DOWN at $1.2110 from $1.2144 at 2200 GMT
Pound/dollar: DOWN at $1.3423 from $1.3450
Dollar/yen: UP at 104.19 yen from 103.84 yen
Euro/pound: DOWN at 90.21 pence from 90.29 pence
West Texas Intermediate: UP 1.4 percent at $46.26 per barrel
Brent North Sea crude: UP 1.1 percent at $49.25 per barrel