U.S. markets will enter the Christmas break on Friday with gains as the Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 196 points, with investors looking past Omicron fears to positive economic data. File Photo by John Angelillo/UPI | License Photo
Dec. 23 (UPI) -- U.S. markets rose slightly Thursday, as investors continued to look past Omicron concerns amid positive economic data.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 196.67 points, or 0.55%, while the S&P 500 rose 0.62% and the Nasdaq Composite ended the day up 0.85%.
Investors responded as the Labor Department reported 205,000 initial jobless claims maintaining a downward trend since the height of the pandemic, while sales of new U.S. homes also rose 12.4% to a seven-month high of 744,000 amid low mortgage rates and high demands.
Markets also reacted to positive developments related to the pandemic as two scientific studies indicated that Omicron appears to be milder than prior strains like Delta, but it still has the potential to kill and overwhelm hospitals worldwide.
The Food and Drug Administration also granted emergency use authorization to Merck's antiviral COVID-19 pill on Thursday, a day after granting the same approval to a pill made by Pfizer.
Shares of Merck stock, however, fell 0.56% and Pfizer dropped 1.41%.
Stocks rose broadly but in modest numbers as Wells Fargo gained 0.69% and JPMorgan Chase stock rose 0.36% amid gains in bank stocks.
Major tech stocks also got a boost as Nvidia rose 0.82% and Microsoft gained 0.45%.
"Much of the stock market's rally this week is due to overdone fears last week and a palpable sigh of relief the selling finally stopped," Jim Paulsen, Leuthold Group's chief investment strategist, said, according to CNBC. "Once the market turned higher, dip-buyers not wanting to miss out on a Santa Rally have taken charge."
All three major averages closed higher for the week with markets closed on Friday for the Christmas holiday with the Dow up 1.6%, the S&P gaining 2.3% and the Nasdaq Composite rallying 3.2%.