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MARKET SNAPSHOT

U.S. stocks on Friday morning were indicated higher, with the benchmarks on track for the best weekly gain in months, as investors watched for the monthly reading on the state of the country’s labor market at 8:30 a.m. Eastern Time.

How are stock benchmarks performing?

  • Futures for the Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 149 points, or 0.5%, at 31,099.
  • S&P 500 index futures gained 19.65 points, or 0.5%, to 3,884.
  • Nasdaq-100 futures climbed 49 points to reach 13,596.50, a gain of 0.4%.

On Thursday, the S&P 500 notched its sixth record close of 2021, while the Nasdaq Composite Index registered its 7th record of the year so far, and the Dow Jones Industrial Average finished just 0.4% off its all-time closing high. The small-capitalization focused The Russell 200 RUT  climbed 1.8%, setting a record.

For the week, the Russell 2000 is set for a 6.2% weekly gain, the Nasdaq was aiming for a gain of about 5.4%, the S&P 500 index was on track for a 4.2% weekly advance, while the Dow was looking at a return of 3.6% over the period, as of Thursday’s close.

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What’s driving the market?

Fears of a market correction inspired by a Reddit-led revolution of individual investors has given way to fresh gains for stocks. The rally for the major benchmarks now puts them on track for their best weekly gains in about three months, FactSet data show.

The updraft has been attributed to healthy earnings from American corporations in the second-busiest week of fourth quarter reporting season results, along with prospects for Congress passing President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package, using a special reconciliation procedure. The Senate early Friday approved a budget resolution that will allow for a fast tracking of the $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief plan.

However, the report on the health of the jobs market may help provide a clearer view on the need for additional spending to help the economy dig out of the pandemic-sparked recession.

“US markets extended their rebound for the fourth day in a row yesterday, as the recent fallout from last week’s Reddit inspired sell-off faded further,” wrote Mark Hewson, chief market analyst at CMC Markets, in a daily research note.

“Improvements in US economic data, along with the prospect of further fiscal stimulus, have helped underpin this week’s recovery raising expectations that the momentum shown in the January ISM reports can be sustained into the rest of the first quarter,” the analyst said.

December’s Institute for Supply Management manufacturing index reading was the highest in almost 2½ years and was close to a 16-year peak.

Investors will focus on January’s nonfarm payrolls report at 8.30 a.m. Eastern Time after the reading from December showed that 140,000 jobs were lost, marking the first monthly decline in employment figures in about eight months when the COVID-19 pandemic first walloped the country.

For January expectations are for a gain of 50,000 to 100,000 jobs with the unemployment rate holding at 6.7%, according to the consensus forecast of economists polled by Econoday and Bloomberg. The range of predictions is wide, from a loss of 100,000 to a gain of 400,000, suggesting that the market could see a pronounced reaction if outlier forecasts become a reality.

Meanwhile, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said regulators would ensure investor protection after a months long social-media campaign by individual investors to drive up the value of heavily shorted stocks like GameStop Inc.

Popular trading app Robinhood Markets has removed the last of its trading limits on shares of GameStop and AMC Entertainment Holdings among others. The volatility in the market associated with the reaction to the retail trading frenzy has since died down significantly.

On the public-health front, Johnson & Johnson  applied for on an emergency use authorization of its single-shot COVID vaccine, which could result in Americans getting shots as early as March.

Meanwhile, COVID hospitalizations continued to fall, to 88,668 on Thursday, the lowest total since Nov. 24, according to the COVID Tracking Project. However, the number of deaths in the U.S. resulting from the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 spiked above 5,000 for the first time on Thursday, snapping a declining trend.

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