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Major benchmark indices closed out the final trading session of the year on strong footing even as the COVID-19 pandemic remains a reality in the United States and many countries around the world.

At market close on Thursday, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 0.65%, or 196 points, to 30,606.48 — a record end to the trading day for the blue-chip index. The S&P 500 also pulled off an all-time high with a gain of 0.64%, or 24 points, to 3,756.07, while the Nasdaq Composite improved 0.14%, or 18 points, to 12,888.28.

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In the early spring months of March and April, the American economy slipped into a recession as the outbreak spread across the country. Government-imposed stay-at-home orders and restrictions on nonessential businesses led to the widespread shutdowns of hundreds of thousands of stores and offices from coast to coast. Subsequently, many top executives forfeited their salaries or took home reduced pay, and millions of people were furloughed or put out of work.

Both nationwide chains and small businesses were also hit hard: A number of boldface retailers like Neiman Marcus and JCPenney filed for Chapter 11 protection. Meanwhile, the permanent closures of local boutiques and mom-and-pop shops have left empty storefronts on formerly frequented shopping thoroughfares.

Over the past few months, a surge in coronavirus infections threatened the reopenings of many metropolitan cities. However, the promise of effective vaccines and the recently enacted federal aid has stoked optimism on Wall Street.

Last week, Congressional leaders passed a $900 billion stimulus package that includes $600 in direct payments to individuals as well as an additional $300 a week for the unemployed. President Donald Trump, who initially rejected the bill in favor of $2,000 checks, ultimately signed it on Sunday. The measure, which was paired with a $1.4 trillion bill to continue funding government agencies through September, also provides loans to small businesses, plus assistance for renters and appropriations, among other provisions.

As for the vaccine, data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that about 12.4 million doses have been distributed, with nearly 2.8 million having received the first round of inoculations. Health authorities have said that a second round of immunizations, called a booster shot, is required to get the most protection out of both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines.

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