Dow, S&P 500 aim to snap 3-day skid as stocks bounce amid report saying Biden to call for further COVID vaccine mandates

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U.S. stock indexes traded modestly higher on Thursday, gaining some momentum early in the session following reports that President Joe Biden will announce additional federal vaccine mandates.

Separately, investors were weighing weekly data on claims for jobless benefit insurance and parsing an updated policy statement from the European Central Bank that could help to inform the Federal Reserve’s plans to scale back on COVID-era policies.

How are stocks trading?
  • The Dow Jones Industrial Average DJIA, +0.27% traded 50 points, or 0.1%, higher to about 35,086.
  • The S&P 500 index SPX, +0.19% advanced 7 points, or 0.1%, to around 4,520.
  • The Nasdaq Composite Index COMP, +0.37% traded 33 points, or 0.2%, higher at 15,320.

On Wednesday, the Dow declined 69 points, or 0.2%, to 35031.07, the S&P 500 dropped 6 points, or 0.1%, to 4514.07, and the Nasdaq Composite ended lower by 88 points, or 0.6%, to 15286.64.

What’s driving markets

Equity markets took a leg higher early Thursday, after reports indicated that Biden would seek a fresh round of additional vaccine mandates for federal workers and push for those measures to be extended to employees of government contractors.

“He’s going to build on our mandates requirements, making it so that workers in the federal government or others have to get vaccinated, we’ve seen that work,” said White House press secretary Jen Psaki told MSNBC on Thursday.

“I think that any time we get news that shows you are going to have more incentives to get this population vaccinated is great for the reopening of the economy,” Edward Moya, senior market analyst at Oanda Corp., told MarketWatch in a phone interview.

The report on the White House’s plans to improve vaccination measures follows updates of weekly jobless claims and a policy statement from the ECB.

Initial jobless claims fell by 35,000 to 310,000 in the week ended Sept. 4, the Labor Department said Thursday, marking the lowest level of claims since the pandemic struck in March 2020 and the biggest decline in claims since late June.

Economists polled by The Wall Street Journal had estimated new claims would total 335,000.

Meanwhile, Europe’s central bank said that it would conduct asset purchases under its pandemic emergency purchase program, or PEPP, at a “moderately lower pace” after accelerating purchases in recent quarters. “Based on a joint assessment of financing conditions and the inflation outlook, the Governing Council judges that favorable financing conditions can be maintained with a moderately lower pace of net asset purchases under the PEPP than in the previous two quarters,” the ECB said following a meeting of its Governing Council.

Read: ‘The lady isn’t tapering,’ says Lagarde as ECB slows asset purchases

The ECB said PEPP purchases would continue with an envelope of €1.85 trillion through at least the end of March 2022. The ECB left key interest rates unchanged, as expected. ECB President Christine Lagarde was hosting a news conference at 2:30 p.m. Frankfurt time, or 8:30 a.m. Eastern.

Meanwhile, New York Fed President John Williams, who gets a vote at every interest-rate-setting meeting, said late Wednesday the central bank is still on track to reduce its bond purchases this year.

“Recently, stocks were in an upside trajectory on falling expectations that the Fed will taper this year, and this was due to the latest disappointing U.S. jobs data,” said Charalambos Pissouros, head of research at JFD Group.

Williams’s comments, however, suggest to some that there remains a chance that the Fed will announce a tapering plan sooner than later.

Which companies are in focus?
  • GameStop GME, -6.87% was under pressure after-hours as the videogames retailer remained coy on its longer-term plans. Its stock was down 7.1%.
  • Lululemon Athletica LULU, +11.29% shares were up over 13% as the athleisure-apparel maker blew past Wall Street estimates for the quarter and increased its full-year forecast.
How other assets are trading
  • The 10-year Treasury note TMUBMUSD10Y, 1.326% was little changed at 1.34%.
  • The dollar was trading 0.2% lower, as measured by the ICE U.S. Dollar Index DXY, -0.11%, which stood at around 92.49.
  • Gold futures were on the rise, with the December contract GCZ21, -0.17% up 0.3% at around $1,800 an ounce.
  • Oil futures CL.1, +0.55% rose, with West Texas Intermediate oil for November CLX21, +0.49% up 0.6% at $69.48 a barrel.
  • The Hang Seng HSI, -2.30% tumbled 2.3% as China took aim at its videogame makers. The South China Morning Post reported the government will freeze new game approvals. Elsewhere in Asia, the Shanghai Composite SHCOMP closed 0.5% higher and Japan’s Nikkei 225 NIK closed advanced 0.6% lower.
  • European equities traded mostly lower, with the Stoxx Europe 600 SXXP down less than 0.1% and the FTSE 100 UKX off 1%.