Equities hover near record highs as stimulus hopes build

NEW YORK (Reuters) – World equity benchmarks hovered near record highs and the dollar remained near 2-1/2-year lows on Wednesday as investors weighed the first approval of a coronavirus vaccine and the prospects for more U.S. economic stimulus with disappointing American jobs data.

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Britain approved Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine on Wednesday, jumping ahead of the United States and Europe to become the first country to do so for the newly developed treatment. Inoculations should begin among the most vulnerable segments of its population early next week.

U.S. health officials have announced plans to start vaccinating Americans as early as mid-December, once regulatory approvals are in place.

“Early vaccines will help bolster the reflation and normalcy trade, which has been the key macro theme in driving equity markets,” said Neil MacKinnon, global macro strategist at VTB Capital.

Yet, disappointing private jobs data in the United States kept a lid on gains and helped support safe-haven assets. Employers added 307,000 jobs last month, well below the 410,000 expected by economists polled by Reuters, according to the ADP National Employment Report.

The dollar index fell 0.01%, while U.S. benchmark 10-year notes last fell 4/32 in price to yield 0.9476%, from 0.934% Tuesday.

MSCI’s gauge of stocks across the globe gained 0.13% following modest gains in Asia and mixed trading in Europe.

In midday trading on Wall Street, the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 5.94 points, or 0.02%, to 29,817.98, the S&P 500 gained 1.7 points, or 0.05%, to 3,664.15 and the Nasdaq Composite dropped 22.65 points, or 0.18%, to 12,332.46.

U.S. stock benchmarks closed at record highs on Tuesday.

“General risk sentiment is unchanged – perhaps there’s a bit of consolidation today but that’s understandable given where we’ve come from since November,” said Derek Halpenny, EMEA head of research for global markets at MUFG. The dollar lost more than 2.5% of its value in November.

Markets were buoyed on Tuesday after top U.S. Senate Republican Mitch McConnell said that Congress should include new coronavirus stimulus in a $1.4 trillion spending bill aimed at heading off a government shutdown in the midst of the pandemic.

U.S. President-elect Joe Biden told the New York Times his priority is getting a generous aid package through Congress even before he takes office in January.

Spot gold added 0.8% to $1,828.56 an ounce. U.S. gold futures gained 0.68% to $1,826.40 an ounce.

U.S. crude recently rose 2.24% to $45.55 per barrel and Brent was at $48.31, up 1.88% on the day.

Oil has raced up nearly 30% over the last month.

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