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Wall St climbs on positive economic data, Omicron update

The S&P 500 and the Nasdaq climbed on Wednesday on a boost from Tesla shares, while better-than-expected economic data added to signs the impact of the Omicron variant of the coronavirus on the economic recovery could be limited.


U.S. consumer confidence improved more than expected in December, suggesting the economy would continue to expand in 2022 despite a resurgence in COVID-19 infections and reduced fiscal stimulus.


A final reading of gross domestic product data showed economic growth slowed sharply in the third quarter amid a flare-up in COVID-19 infections, but activity has since picked up, putting the economy on track to record its best performance this year since 1984.


Wall Street’s main indexes surged on Tuesday after three straight sessions of declines, but few market-moving catalysts and thin volumes in the last two weeks of trading this year are likely to push up volatility. In 2021, the S&P 500 index is up about 24%.


A South African study suggested those infected with Omicron were much less likely to end up in hospital than those with Delta, easing worries about the severity of the new variant that has forced countries across the world to impose fresh curbs.


“Markets did a very effective job over the course of the last two weeks of pricing in all three major headwinds - the discovery of the Omicron variant, the hawkish pivot from the Fed and then Build Back Better being shelved for the time being,” said Art Hogan, chief market strategist at National Securities in New York.


U.S. Democratic Senator Joe Manchin earlier this week rejected President Joe Biden’s signature $1.75 trillion domestic investment bill known as Build Back Better, delivering a blow to financial markets.


All the major S&P 500 sector indexes advanced, with consumer discretionary leading the charge higher.


Tesla Inc jumped 7.5% and was on pace to close at a $1 trillion market value. According to an interview released on Tuesday, Tesla CEO Elon Musk said he had sold “enough stock” to reach his plan to sell 10% of his shares in company.


At 11:34 a.m. ET, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 183.03 points, or 0.52%, at 35,675.73, the S&P 500 was up 35.08 points, or 0.75%, at 4,684.31, and the Nasdaq Composite was up 136.41 points, or 0.89%, at 15,477.50.


The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is set to authorize COVID-19 treatment pills from both Pfizer and Merck as early as Wednesday, as per a Bloomberg News report. Merck climbed 1.1%.

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