Wall St closes higher, dollar drops as remarkable year winds down

NEW YORK (Reuters) -Wall Street ended the session in positive territory and the dollar dipped to its lowest in more than two years on Wednesday, the penultimate trading day in a remarkable year of pandemic, recession and recovery.

FILE PHOTO: Raindrops hang on a sign for Wall Street outside the New York Stock Exchange in Manhattan in New York City, New York, U.S., October 26, 2020. REUTERS/Mike Segar

All three major U.S. stock indexes gained modestly, but short of all-time closing highs as recently enacted coronavirus relief and the ongoing rollout of COVID-19 vaccines fed optimism over economic recovery in 2021.

“It is light action today,” said JJ Kinahan, chief market strategist at TD Ameritrade in Chicago. “It’s a little bit of ‘Hey, we are going to finish the year strong,’ everybody feels good and we will see what happens come January 4.”

“But at some point we are going to start to have volatility again related to COVID,” Kinahan added. “This is not a story that is going away in the first six months of 2021.”

That sentiment was shared by Matthew Keator, managing partner in the Keator Group, a wealth management firm in Lenox, Massachusetts.

“My anticipation is that (the economic rebound) will probably be more robust in the latter part of 2021,” Keator said. “Once there’s the sense of an all-clear sign, we would anticipate a robust response from the consumer,” Keator added.

Britain approved a coronavirus vaccine developed by Oxford University and AstraZeneca in the latest development in the rapid progression, testing, approval and deployment of drugs to battle the disease.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 73.89 points, or 0.24%, to 30,409.56, the S&P 500 gained 5 points, or 0.13%, to 3,732.04 and the Nasdaq Composite added 19.78 points, or 0.15%, to 12,870.00.

European stocks reversed gains to end a five-day winning streak, closing lower as investors locked in year-end gains.

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The pan-European STOXX 600 index lost 0.34% and MSCI’s gauge of stocks across the globe gained 0.35%.

Emerging market stocks rose 1.73%. MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan closed 1.85% higher, while Japan’s Nikkei lost 0.45%.

The U.S. Treasury yield curve flattened on Wednesday afternoon as traders bought longer-dated debt to rebalance their portfolios ahead of the month-end.

Benchmark 10-year notes last rose 4/32 in price to yield 0.9231%, from 0.935% late on Tuesday.

The 30-year bond last rose 12/32 in price to yield 1.6576%, from 1.674% late on Tuesday.

The dollar fell to the lowest since April 2018 against a basket of world currencies as investors bet on more fiscal support and positioned for year-end in light trading volume.

The dollar index fell 0.38%, with the euro up 0.38% at $1.2293.

The Japanese yen strengthened 0.30% versus the greenback at 103.28 per dollar, while the British pound was last trading at $1.3614, up 0.84% on the day.

Crude oil prices advanced on the back of the weaker dollar and a dip in U.S. inventories, but gains were capped by dimming hopes of a demand rebound.

U.S. crude futures gained 0.83% to settle at $48.40 per barrel and Brent settled at $51.34 per barrel, up 0.49% on the day.

Gold prices rose, countering a dip in the greenback, although global COVID-19 vaccine rollouts and increased risk appetite limited the safe-haven metal’s gains.

Spot gold added 0.8% to $1,892.06 an ounce.

Reporting by Stephen Culp; Additional reporting by Chuck Mikolajczak; editing by Jonathan Oatis