Stock Futures Point to Fresh Records for Major Indexes

12/01/2020 | 05:43am

By Anna Hirtenstein

U.S. stock futures rose Tuesday, suggesting that the major indexes may notch fresh records after the market opens.

Futures linked to the S&P 500 climbed almost 1%, signaling that the broad market gauge is likely to erase its muted losses from Monday and extend the November rally. The S&P 500 ended last week at an all-time high last week, its 26th for this year.

Contracts tied to the technology-heavy Nasdaq-100 index rose 0.8%, while Dow Jones Industrial Average futures gained 1.1%.

Investors' sentiment has been buoyed in recent weeks by the development of Covid-19 vaccines, which could curtail infection levels and let social and business activity return to pre-pandemic levels.

"The mood of the market is rather optimistic," said Eric Barthalon, global head of capital markets research at Allianz. "For the time being, markets have bought the news that vaccines are going to be rolled out earlier than expected."

Policy makers such as Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell are paying more attention to potential hurdles in widespread distribution of the vaccines, and other challenges before the economy returns to normal, Mr. Barthalon said.

Mr. Powell, in testimony prepared for delivery at a congressional hearing Tuesday, said the Fed's actions to backstop credit markets this past spring had unlocked almost $2 trillion to support businesses, cities and states. He is scheduled to testify before Congress at 10 a.m. ET. Investors are likely to be watching for further insights into the pace and strength of the economic recovery when he takes questions from lawmakers.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin is also expected to testify.

"Officials seem to be paying much more attention to the implementation risks than markets," Mr. Barthalon said. "There is clearly a contrast between market expectations and officials' expectations."

Surveys of purchasing managers in the U.S., scheduled to be released

starting at 9:45 a.m. ET,   are expected to show continued growth in the manufacturing sector in November. 

"People, because they are stuck at home and unable to do leisure activity, have money to spend on goods," said Sebastian Mackay, a multiasset fund manager at Invesco. This is "where the final demand for a lot of manufacturing is coming from."

A report on construction spending, due at 10 a.m., is expected to show it rose at a faster pace in October, echoing broader strength in the housing market.

The U.S. dollar continued to weaken against a basket of currencies, with the WSJ Dollar Index falling 0.3% and hovering near its lowest in more than two years.

In bond markets, the yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury note edged down to 0.842%, from 0.845% on Monday.

Overseas, the pan-continental Stoxx Europe 600 rose 0.7%. Surveys on manufacturing activity in many major European economies on Tuesday showed a broad continued expansion in the eurozone.

"The manufacturing sector is one part of the European economy that is actually managing to retain some degree of resilience," said Michael Hewson, a chief markets analyst at CMC Markets. "Ultimately it's encouraging, but it doesn't tell us much about the more vulnerable sectors of the economy like services."

The U.K. was one of the best performing stock markets in Europe, with the FTSE 100 index rising 1.7% after data showed a higher-than-expected increase in house prices for November. British banking stocks rose, with Lloyds Banking Group climbing 4.5%, Natwest advancing 4.3% and Barclays up nearly 4%.

"Higher house prices are good for banks, they hold an awful lot of mortgages and will be more likely to get their money paid back in this case," Mr. Hewson said.

UniCredit retreated 6.3% in Italy after Chief Executive Officer Jean Pierre Mustier said he would step down in April following a disagreement on strategic direction with the board.

In Asia, most major benchmarks rose by the close of trading. The Shanghai Composite Index added 1.8%, Hong Kong's Hang Seng advanced 0.9% and Japan's Nikkei 225 climbed 1.3%.

A private gauge of manufacturing activity in China showed that it hit its highest level in a decade in November, signaling a strong recovery in the world's second-largest economy.

"The ongoing story of a pretty dramatic rebound in activity in that area of the world seems to be evidenced by that data," said Invesco's Mr. Mackay. "There is a bit more momentum to come through" for stock markets in Asia, he added.

Write to Anna Hirtenstein at anna.hirtenstein@wsj.com

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

12-01-20 0536ET

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