Market Snapshot: Stock market propped up by rise in financials, rebound in energy shares

U.S. stock benchmarks rose modestly on Thursday, buoyed mostly by gains in bank shares and a slight pick up in energy and material, as crude-oil prices perked up in seasonally light trading volume.

What are stock benchmarks doing?

The Dow Jones Industrial Average DJIA, +0.17%  rose 36 points, or 0.2%, to 24,810, led by a rebound in shares of UnitedHealth Group Inc. UNH, +0.93% and a rise in shares of Boeing Co. BA, +0.30%  and International Business Machines Corp. IBM, +0.35% The S&P 500 index SPX, +0.03%  advanced 2 points, or less than 0.1%, to 2,684, with the technology sector rising 0.2% and financial shares rising 0.2%. The real estate and utilities sectors, which make up a smaller share of the broad-market index, were both up at least 0.2%.

The Nasdaq Composite Index COMP, +0.01%  was trading at break-even levels, up less than 0.1% at 6,942.

The advances come after all three benchmarks closed slightly higher in thin trade on Wednesday, with the Dow average ending 0.1% higher, the S&P 500 rising 0.1% and the Nasdaq advancing 3.09 points, or less than 0.1%.

What’s driving the markets?

A rotation in to bank shares and energy names helped to prop up equity markets, but moves have been slight as investors have little incentive to make decisive bets on assets perceived as risky in the penultimate session of trade ahead of the New Year’s holiday on Monday.

Last week, stocks rallied to records after the Republicans passed the most sweeping overhaul of the U.S. tax code in 30 years as well as a stopgap spending bill to keep the government funded into early 2018.

What are strategist saying?

Doug Cote, chief market strategist at Voya Investment Management, said trade is being supported by expectations for further gains in 2018 and an improving economy, on the back of fiscal stimulus measures like corporate tax cuts.

Cote said Thursday’s moves reflect “a slowdown in the market,” but said “as what usually happens in January, I expect big action not only in the markets but in the fundamentals of the economy which really ultimately drive the market.”

Which stocks are in focus?

Shares of Chesapeake Energy Corp. CHK, +4.38%  surged more than 5%, as crude-oil prices CLG8, +0.29% perked up following additional signs that crude inventories are being steadily trimmed, setting the stage for possible gains for oil futures headed into 2018.

Apple Inc.’s shares AAPL, +0.04% are attempting to rebound, up less than 0.1%, as the iPhone maker attempts to trim a weekly decline of nearly 2%, on the back of worries about sales of its iPhone X and reports and reports of lawsuits against the tech giant.

Tesla Inc. TSLA, +1.08%  rose 1%, after losing 1.8% on Wednesday when KeyBanc analysts slashed their fourth-quarter estimates for Model 3 deliveries to about 5,000 from 15,000.

What’s on deck in economic data?

The purchasing managers index for Chicago showed a rise of 67.6 in December from 63.9 in the previous month, compared with expectations for 62. Any reading above 50 indicates expansion.

Initial U.S. jobless claims, a tool to measure layoffs, were unchanged at 245,000 last week. Economists surveyed by MarketWatch had forecast claims to total 239,000.

Meanwhile, the U.S. deficit in goods increased 2.3% in November to $69.7 billion.

What are other markets doing?

Bitcoin prices plunged, with spot prices BTCUSD, -8.70% after South Korea announced tougher measures to crack down on cryptocurrencies trade.

The dollar dropped against most other major currencies, with the ICE index DXY, -0.42%  down 0.5% at 92.60, marking its lowest level in about three months. The broad-based dollar selloff came after U.S. Treasury yields TMUBMUSD10Y, +0.79%  tumbled on Wednesday.

Metals were mostly higher, with gold prices GCG8, +0.39%  settled at a 10-week high at $1,297.20 an ounce.

Asian stocks closed mostly higher, while European markets wavered around the flat line.

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