By Peter Nurse
Investing.com – U.S. stocks are seen opening marginally higher Thursday, ending the year on a positive note amid growing confidence the Omicron Covid variant won’t cause serious economic damage.
At 9 AM ET (1200 GMT), the Dow Futures contract was up 50 points, or 0.15%, S&P 500 Futures traded 6 points, or 0.13%, higher and Nasdaq 100 Futures climbed 16.5 points, or 0.15%.
All three major indices are on course to close the year higher, with the S&P 500 and Dow Jones Industrial Average up 28% and 19%, respectively, and the Nasdaq Composite up 22%.
Stock markets are rising on hopes fresh coronavirus-related curbs and restrictions may not be needed going into the new year, even as Covid-19 cases, largely of the Omicron variant, surge.
Helping the tone Thursday was the news of a study showing a booster dose of Johnson & Johnson’s (NYSE:JNJ) single-dose vaccine was 84% effective at preventing hospitalization in South African healthcare workers who became infected by the Omicron variant.
Additionally, Covid-19 deaths and hospitalizations are “comparatively” low, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Rochelle Walensky said on Wednesday, as cases in the United States reached a record high.
Elsewhere, Micron (NASDAQ:MU) will be in the spotlight after the chipmaker warned that strict Covid-19 curbs in the Chinese city of Xi’an could disrupt its chip manufacturing unit in the area.
Biogen (NASDAQ:BIIB) stock weakened premarket after Samsung (KS:005930) Biologics scotched media reports that it is buying the American biotech company.
Thursday’s main economic release, the weekly initial jobless claims number, showed a drop of 8K to 198,000 from the previous week’s 206,000, as last week’s number was revised up 1,000. Claims are a level that is generally consistent with pre-pandemic levels, though the 4-week moving average set a 52-year low.
Oil prices fell Thursday, handing back some recent gains but set to end the year with growing optimism that energy demand will prove resilient in the face of the omicron virus wave.
U.S. crude oil inventories fell by 3.6 million barrels in the week to Dec. 24, according to data from the Energy Information Administration, released Wednesday, suggesting demand remains strong in the world’s largest energy consumer.
By 9 AM ET, U.S. crude futures had reached the green, trading 0.1% higher at $76.64 a barrel, while the Brent contract rose 0.13% to $79.31. The contracts are on course to post gains of between 50% and 60% in 2021, the biggest annual advances in more than a decade.
Additionally, gold futures fell 0.2% to $1,801.80/oz, while EUR/USD traded 0.4% lower at 1.1303.
(Article published at 7am ET, updated at 9:07am ET).