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US stocks closed at record highs on the last day of trading before the Christmas holidays as the release of encouraging economic and health data eased fears over the effects of the Omicron variant of coronavirus.
The S&P 500 stock index rose 0.6 percent and increased its weekly gains to more than 2 percent. The benchmark index closed at 4,725.79. The tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite closed 0.8 percent higher, up more than 3 percent this week at 15,653.37.
The record close follows a volatile trading month. Stocks have risen dramatically since the discovery of the Omicron strain in late November and a recent shift from global central banks to tighter monetary policies.
However, in the past few days there have been encouraging results from a number of academic studies showing that the Omicron variant is less severe than the earlier Delta variant. The latest study, published yesterday by the UK Health Service, a government agency, is based on 132 people infected with the variant who sought hospital treatment in England by December 20.
The study found that people using Omicron were 50 to 70 percent less likely to need hospital accommodation and 31 to 45 percent less hospital treatment than people using Delta.
UK government officials said the decrease in Omicron’s severity was due to a combination of breakthrough infections in vaccinated individuals and reinfections caused by the milder variant, and a possible change in the biology of the virus.
The results were consistent with separate research published this week by Imperial College London and the University of Edinburgh along with health data from South Africa and Denmark.
However, the UKHSA study found that people who received a booster vaccination against the coronavirus more than 10 weeks ago were seeing the first signs of declining immunity to symptomatic infection from Omicron.
Alongside the latest medical data, investors digested encouraging economic data that underscores the resilience of the world’s largest economy.
US initial jobless claims were unchanged from the previous week, while US durable goods orders were higher than analysts expected last month.
The US core consumer spending index, which excludes volatile items like food and energy bills, rose 4.7 percent in November year over year, suggesting American households are spending fast.
Stock market outlook 2022 Words like “nimble” and “volatility” pepper predictions, writes market editor Katie Martin.
Thank you for reading FirstFT Americas. We wish all of our readers happy holidays and we’ll be back in your inboxes on Tuesday, December 28th. Here’s the rest of today’s news – Gordon
Five more stories on the news
1. USA and Russia hold talks on Ukraine Vladimir Putin said the two sides would meet in Geneva in January for talks that he believes are essential at his annual press conference to protect Moscow from what he believes are existential threats from NATO.
Go deeper By deploying tens of thousands of soldiers on the Ukrainian border, Putin forced the White House into a policy that experts in the region consider a scramble to be formulated on the fly.
2. UK department store Selfridges sold for $ 5.4 billion Founded in 1908 by Harry Gordon Selfridge, the retailer was sold by the Canadian billionaire family Weston to a Thai conglomerate and an Austrian real estate company.
3. Facebook befriends the start-up to build the Metaverse AI Reverie, an artificial intelligence company with ties to the U.S. military, is being used by Facebook to build the Metaverse after it was acquired by the company now known as Meta in August.
4. Buyout groups spend $ 42 billion buying businesses from themselves Private equity groups have deals worth $ 42 billion this year.
5. Low supply and high demand drive up champagne prices Vintage champagnes like Dom Pérignon 2008 and Krug 2000 have soared in price this year, outperforming global stocks as wealthy investors seek returns in previously overlooked asset classes.
The day ahead
Elections in Libya postponed Libyans were due to vote, but after the High National Electoral Commission ordered a nationwide dissolution of electoral committees without providing a final list of candidates, the commission said it was “impossible” to hold the vote. The electoral board proposed January 24th as the new election date. (Al Jazeera)
Christmas eve Pope Francis celebrates midnight mass in St. Peter’s Basilica. Midnight Mass is also celebrated at the site of Jesus’ birth in the Church of the Nativity in Manger Square in Bethlehem in the West Bank.
What else we read
Year in one word: In the interim As inflation continued to accelerate, the word “temporary” used by Federal Reserve Chairman Jay Powell to describe temporary price increases became embarrassing. Other FT words of the year are metaverse and meme stick.
Web3’s chaotic vision of a technical future As the year 2022 rolls around, a new movement under the banner of Web3 has become one of the most discussed – and least understood – forces in technology. West Coast Editor Richard Waters does his best to explain.
The art of conversation An FT illustrated story by Kristen Radtke, the author of two graphic non-fiction books, who looks back on how people learned to communicate – and how we could do better in the age of the pandemic.
Where were weather records broken this year? This year has been increasingly warmer than normal, with global temperatures being above average from month to month. The FT tracks extreme climate events from around the world. Discover our interactive tracker.
Afghan women footballers are enjoying a new life in England After rocket strikes and gun battles, some of the most talented women players have escaped the Taliban and are finding a fresh start thanks to supporters like Leeds United Football Club in the north of England.
The hassle of Christmas dinner usually gives way to the quiet hustle and bustle of primetime comedy. But the television landscape has changed since the 1970s. Henry Mance looks back on the golden age of Christmas television and wonders what could take its place.
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