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Stocks traded mixed to pause after a two-day rally, as investors further considered updates around the Omicron variant and weighed a potential policy pivot by the Federal Reserve.
A day earlier, technology stocks outperformed to pull the Nasdaq higher by more than 3%, in its best day since March. As of Tuesday’s close, the S&P 500 was less than 0.5% below its levels from Nov. 24, or the session before the World Health Organization’s announcement of the Omicron’s discovery.
Treasury yields steadied after a jump on Tuesday, and the yield on the 10-year Treasury note traded just below 1.5%. U.S. West Texas intermediate crude oil futures hovered around $71 per barrel, while Bitcoin slipped back near $50,000.
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Investors have snapped up risk assets so far this week amid prospects that the Omicron variant may not pose as severe a health threat as previously feared. And elsewhere, the latest developments in Washington, D.C., indicated lawmakers were on track to raise the debt-ceiling before a Dec. 15 deadline, which if not extended would leave the U.S. Treasury without sufficient funds to repay U.S. debt holders. The House of Representatives voted Tuesday night to approve a bill paving the way for Senate lawmakers to raise the limit with a simple majority vote.
Pfizer (PFE) shares traded slightly higher after the company said that three doses of its Pfizer-BioNTech (BNTX) vaccine “neutralize” the Omicron variant, while noting that two doses “may not be sufficient to protect against infection” with Omicron. Other recent developments around the virus have also been upbeat, with Dr. Anthony Fauci telling the AFP on Tuesday that Omicron infections are “almost certainly” not more severe than those caused by the previous Delta variant.
“Economic growth is going to be strong. Certainly the Omicron variant could possibly push some of that out, but it won’t eliminate it given the underlying fundamentals,” Brent Schutte, chief investment strategist for Northwestern Mutual, told Yahoo Finance Live. “And the Federal Reserve certainly will focus a bit more on tapering — that kind of spooked the market — but ask yourself: What impact is that going to have on growth? The answer to us is not much. You are still going to have a strong U.S. economy next year on the back of reopening, on the back of all the cash that is still available on the consumer balance sheet.”
Other strategists echoed these sentiments.
“We do think that there is fundamental support there for markets to continue to move higher here,” Emily Roland, co-chief investment strategist at John Hancock investment management, told Yahoo Finance Live on Tuesday. “Obviously we had a couple of things spook us over the last week or so, the emergence of the Omicron variant as well as this pivot from the Fed, potentially seeing them accelerating their tapering of asset purchases here. But the bottom line is that the economy is strong.”
“So until it looks like we’re inching closer to a recession here, which we’re nowhere near at this point, it’s hard for us to get too defensive,” she added. “We continue to embrace equities, we like the U.S. the most, that’s where we’re seeing the best relative economic growth, that’s where we’re seeing the best relative earnings growth. And again, the other element here is that there is a ton of cash on the sidelines that’s looking to get put to work.”