U.S. stock index futures were little changed early Thursday, after the major averages posted a third straight day of gains as traders bet that the omicron variant’s economic impacts won’t be as severe as initially thought.
Futures contracts tied to the Dow Jones Industrial Average slid 109 points. S&P 500 futures were down 0.3%, while Nasdaq 100 futures were off 0.4%.
During regular trading the Dow and S&P 500 advanced 0.1% and 0.3%, respectively, with each registering a third straight day of gains. The S&P’s gain over the last three days is the strongest of the year, according to MKM Partners.
The Nasdaq Composite advanced 0.64%, also registering a third day of gains. Apple had the most positive impact on the index, while Nvidia was the biggest drag.
Equities got a boost after Pfizer and BioNTech said Wednesday morning that a booster dose of their vaccine provides a high level of protection against the new omicron variant.
“The range of possibilities is still wide, but in the bigger picture, we think the odds are still very much in favor of the pandemic phase winding down,” Bank of America wrote in a note to clients following the announcement. “In our view, COVID is here to stay, but a shift to the endemic phase is approaching where infections are common but severe outcomes / lockdowns / travel restrictions are not,” the firm added.
With Wednesday’s gain, the S&P 500 is now just 0.9% below its all-time intraday high from Nov. 22.
Ed Moya, senior market analyst with Oanda, said that the market is in a wait-and-see mode ahead of Friday’s inflation report, which could “fuel further Fed rate hike bets.” Economists are expecting the report to show that prices rose 0.7% in November month-over-month, according to estimates from Dow Jones.
“While growth and labor markets have provided reasons to be optimistic about the economy, inflation is also running hot and sits at a 30-year high,” UBS wrote in a recent note to clients. “With the omicron variant entering the picture, investors are now questioning what monetary policy will look like going forward. The pandemic has already greatly increased the uncertainty over the economic outlook,” the firm added, noting that its base case is that the Fed will be patient.
Weekly jobless claims data will be released on Thursday at 8:30 a.m. on Wall Street. Economists are expecting the number of first-time-filers to come in at 211,000, according to estimates from Dow Jones.
There are some notable earnings reports on Thursday, including from Oracle, Broadcom and Lululemon, all of which report after the market closes.