Here are the most important news, trends and analysis that investors need to start their trading day:
- Stock futures point to third straight day of gains
- Data shows improving economy with uncomfortable inflation
- Omicron appears milder than other variants, studies show
- Covid modeling suggests massive spike in cases ahead
- Elon Musk now says 'almost done' with Tesla stock sales
1. Stock futures point to third straight day of gains
U.S. stock futures on Thursday pointed to a third straight session of gains in what would be a continuation of Wall Street's rebound from a prior three-session losing streak on concerns about the Covid omicron variant. The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 261 points, or 0.7%, on Wednesday, with the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq up 1% and 1.2%, respectively. Adding to the positive sentiment, the Food and Drug Administration granted emergency use authorization for Pfizer's Covid pill, the first antiviral drug against the virus for at-home use.
2. Data shows improving economy with uncomfortable inflation
Trading is expected to remain relatively thin as the U.S. stock market is closed Friday for Christmas Eve. However, there's a full slate of economic data Thursday, starting at 8:30 a.m. ET with numbers on jobs, inflation, spending and durable goods orders. The numbers showed a strong economy with improving labor and spending trends, but inflation at uncomfortable levels. At 10 a.m. ET, November new home sales and the University of Michigan's final December consumer sentiment index are out.
3. Omicron appears milder than other variants, studies show
The omicron variant is less likely to result in hospitalization and appears milder than earlier strains of the virus, according to early data released by research teams this week. On Tuesday, a new study from South Africa showed that people infected with omicron are 80% less likely to be admitted to a hospital than if they contract other strains. On Wednesday, the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention said that omicron accounted for 90% of the cases in some parts of the country. The CDC said the variant made up more than 73% of the cases in the U.S. as of Saturday.
4. Covid modeling suggests massive spike in cases ahead
Hospitals across the nation are preparing for another wave of Covid that could rival the early days of the pandemic as the highly mutated and contagious omicron variant rages. In fact, the director of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation told USA Today that new modeling shows the U.S. could see about 140 million new cases from January to March. Peak new daily infections are projected to reach about 2.8 million late next month, according to the IHME, with less than 15% expected to be captured by testing. The U.S. has a total of 51.5 million reported Covid cases since the virus arrived in America. Reported cases topped 300,000 in early January of this year.
5. Elon Musk now says 'almost done' with Tesla stock sales
Tesla CEO Elon Musk said Wednesday he's "almost done" with his stock sales after selling over $15 billion worth for more than one month. The billionaire had made confusing statements as to whether he might or might not be done with his stated goal of selling 10% of his Tesla shares. "I sold enough stock to get to around 10% plus the option exercise stuff and I tried to be extremely literal here," he said in an interview with conservative satirical website Babylon Bee released Tuesday. But on Wednesday he suggested he might not be finished. "This assumes completion of the 10b sale," he tweeted, referring to his prearranged sales plan related to his options.
— Reuters contributed to this report. Follow all the market action like a pro on CNBC Pro. Get the latest on the pandemic with CNBC's coronavirus coverage.
— Thursday's "5 Things" report will be the last of the year. It will return after the holidays on Monday, Jan. 3.
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