Stock market news live updates: Stock futures open slightly higher, adding to record levels

Contracts on the three major indices ticked higher at the start of late trading on Wednesday, with the S&P 500 adding to record levels.

The S&P 500 eked out another all-time closing high at the end of a muted trading day on Wednesday, as investors paused after November’s breakneck rally. Energy stocks and crude oil prices advanced, as traders looked ahead to a meeting of OPEC and its allies on Thursday, during which oil producers will consider proposals around extending output cuts.

More upbeat news around drugmakers’ coronavirus vaccines emerged on Wednesday, though these did not trigger the outsized moves in the broader market seen last month. Britain became the world’s first country to grant emergency authorization for Pfizer and BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine and is set to begin shots within days. Though emergency use authorization of the vaccine is still being reviewed in the U.S. by the Food and Drug Administration, officials have expressed optimism about first doses getting rolled out in the middle of December.

Still, Americans will continue to contend with the coronavirus pandemic in the meantime until the vaccine becomes available on a widespread basis. Robert Redfield, The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention director, said during a virtual event Wednesday that December, January and February are likely “going to be the most difficult in the public health history of this nation, largely because of the stress that’s going to be put on our health-care system.” He added that COVID-19 deaths could total nearly 450,000 in the U.S. in February, rising rapidly from the more than 270,000 reported to date.

With a tough winter left to endure, some lawmakers have amplified calls to pass another round of fiscal stimulus before year-end. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer each said they supported a bipartisan group of lawmakers’ recently unveiled $908 billion stimulus proposal, despite the sum being less than the $2 trillion package the Democratic lawmakers had sought previously. President-elect Joe Biden also endorsed the bill, and suggested that it would be the start of a more comprehensive suite of relief legislation once he is inaugurated in January.

Markets, however, have been bracing for a stimulus package for months, and many economists have baked in expectations of further fiscal stimulus into their baseline outlooks for U.S. economic activity. That may leave little further upside for equities to trade around stimulus news, unless the eventual legislation is much larger in size and scope than currently anticipated, according to some analysts.

“I do think that we will have a deal, but the problem is the market is already anticipating it,” Bill Baruch, Blue Line Futures President, told Yahoo Finance. “Now I am bullish, and I think the path of least resistance is higher for stocks, but one thing again is, what are the markets’ expectations?”

“That $2 trillion headline that everybody had for months is dissipating, and markets are going to have to settle for a bit less. And when they do get it, is it going to be a buy the rumor, sell the news event? So those are things that are going through my mind when I’m trying to manage risk.”

6:05 p.m. ET Wednesday: Stock futures open higher

Here were the main moves in markets, as of 6:05 p.m. ET Wednesday evening:

  • S&P 500 futures (ES=F): 3,669.5, up 2.25 points or 0.06%

  • Dow futures (YM=F): 29,888.00, up 20 points or 0.07%

  • Nasdaq futures (NQ=F): 12,474.75, up 20.5 points or 0.16%

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