The final day of buying and selling in 2020 begins quietly

© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: FILE PHOTO: The boot on the statue of former US President George Washington can be seen on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) after Election Day in Manhattan, New York City

By Christiana Sciaudone – US stocks opened slightly lower in a muted session on the last day of trading of the year that turned everything upside down.

Wall Street’s three main indexes hit record highs this week and have been rebounding since March when the COVID-19 pandemic sparked the steepest global recession in generations and left millions of Americans jobless.

The Dow was down 0.12%, the S&P 500 was down 0.6%, and the Nasdaq was down 0.18% at 9:553 a.m. in New York.

An unprecedented level of stimulus for central banks and governments has helped the benchmark rise nearly 70% from its March lows and hit more than 15% a year.

The Nasdaq is expected to jump 43%, its best annual performance since 2009, and benefit from a surge in tech mega-caps like Alphabet (NASDAQ 🙂 Inc. Microsoft Corp. (NASDAQ :), Apple Inc (NASDAQ :), Facebook Inc. (NASDAQ 🙂 and Netflix Inc (NASDAQ :).

But yesterday the US recorded a record number of deaths, many cities are on lockdown around the world, and cases continue to rise. More than 500,000 are reported daily, the New York Times reported. Still, investors expect the numerous vaccines to be administered as a sign of hope for 2021.

“Vaccine versus accelerated cases … that will be the story of the market for the first few months,” said Christopher Grisanti, chief equity strategist at MAI Capital Management. “The vaccine will win. The market will remain strong in the first half of 2021.”

Fewer than 3 million people have been vaccinated in the US so far this year, up from the 20 million expected by the end of 2020.

More than nine months after the pandemic started, a report from the U.S. Department of Labor found that the number of Americans first filing unemployment benefits fell for a second week.

The trading volume is expected to be low as many traders are gone on New Years Eve.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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