Stocks edged up early on Friday, gaining ground after three straight days of losses. Investors remain focused on the future of the COVID-stricken economy and the potential for further stimulus to address it.
The S&P 500 Index was up 0.3% as of 10 a.m. Eastern time. The Dow Jones Industrial Average also rose 0.3% and the Nasdaq 0.5%. The Russell 2000 index of small business stocks rose 1.1%, a sign that investors were anticipating increased economic growth and potentially higher inflation.
The yield on the 10-year Treasury bill, which is used to set mortgage rates, fell to 1.31%, although this is still low by historical standards.
Wall Street continues to look to Washington for direction, as Democrats move forward with their $ 1.9 trillion stimulus package to fight the coronavirus. Gradual action was taken this week, with the Biden administration announcing it would drop its call for a minimum wage of $ 15 an hour in this stimulus package in order to garner support from moderate Democratic senators.
The stimulus package would include 1,400 checks to most Americans, additional payments for children and billions of dollars in aid to state and local governments as well as additional help to businesses affected by the pandemic.
Much of the recent economic data has shown that the US economy could benefit from further stimulus. Wall Street received a weekly jobless claims report Thursday that showed 861,000 Americans filed for unemployment last week, an increase from the previous week and higher than Wall Street had expected. The Federal Reserve, in the minutes of its January meeting, also explained why further stimulus would be needed and not cause the economy to overheat.
Of particular importance are investor concerns about inflation. The yield on the 10-year note rose 0.15 percentage points this week alone, a significant rise in such a short time. Rising bond yields may indicate that investors are hoping for greater economic growth in the future, but it may also signal potential inflation to come.
In other economic news, sales of previously occupied U.S. homes rose again last month, a sign that the strong momentum in housing markets from 2020 may continue into this year.
Sales of existing homes in the United States rose 0.6% in January from the previous month to a seasonally adjusted rate of 6.69 million units annualized, the National Association of Realtors said on Friday. Sales increased 23.7% from the previous year. It was the highest sales rate since October.
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