Wall Street: S&P 500 hit an all-time high amid data suggesting Omicron is less severe than feared.
The main New York stock market indices closed a new week with solid gains.
Wall Street's major indices rose sharply for a third straight session on Thursday. The S&P 500 setting a close record after encouraging news gave investors more reassurance about the impact of the omicron variant of the coronavirus, propping up confidence before the Christmas holidays.
Shares ended a holiday shorter week on a positive note, boosting confidence heading into Christmas. Gains were broad, led by the industrial and luxury consumer sectors, advancing about 1.2 percent.
The arrival of Omicron has contributed to increased market volatility for much of the final month of 2021, which has been a generally profitable year for equities.
"Investors have continued to see pretty strong economic growth and relatively positive developments in healthcare innovation around COVID, leading to increased demand for equities and prompting investors to look to allocate capital as the end of the year approaches, "said Matthew Miskin, director of investment strategies at John Hancock Investment Management.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 196.67 points, or 0.55%, to 35,950.56 units, while the S&P 500 gained 29.23 points, or 0.62%, to 4,725.79 units. The Nasdaq Composite added 131.48 points, or 0.85%, to 15,653.37 points.
The S&P 500 has been rising for three days after falling in the preceding three sessions. The S&P 500 added 2.3% for the week, the Dow Jones rose 1.7%, and the Nasdaq climbed 3.2%.
"People are seeing strength on Tuesday and Wednesday, and all of a sudden, everyone is optimistic again," said Robert Powell, senior portfolio manager at Dakota Wealth Management.
The two labs said their vaccines protect against omecron and British data suggested that they could lead to relatively fewer hospital admissions than the corona virus delta variant. However, public health experts warn that the fight against COVID-19 is not over.
As investors approach the new year, after a successful 2020 for stocks, Omicron's impact on the global economy is expected to gain traction. The S&P 500 is moving 87% forward by the end of 2018, its best three-year performance in more than two decades.
"2022 is actually going to be a better year than what people are forecasting today," said Sam Stovall of CFRA Research. "We have the reopening of the economy, the reduction of disruptions in the supply chain, and we have just learned to tolerate new variants of the COVID virus."
On a day of low trading volumes ahead of the Christmas and New Years' holidays, the top 11 industry indices of the S&P 500 were up. Industrial and financial - which tend to advance when economic prospects improve - posted the highest gains.
European stocks closed green
European stocks hit a month-long high on Thursday, led by gains in bank papers, as signs that the impact of the omicron variant may be less severe than feared led to a greater appetite for risk than it pushed up the debt returns of the eurozone and the US Treasury.
The pan-European STOXX 600 index gained 1% in its third session, followed by gains, driven by bank stocks and travel, following a global rally in stock markets that was also helped by solid data from the US economy.
Yields on bonds of the eurozone rose for the fourth straight session. The benchmark debt of the Treasury advanced to two-week highs as the cautious return of risk appetite reduced the need to search for refuge, which helped boost banking actions.
The STOXX 600 is expected to gain about 21% this year, slightly below a 26% gain on the S&P 500. It is just 1.5% of its all-time highs.