Monday December 27th


U.S. futures point to slightly higher open as airline stocks slide after Covid-related cancellations

U.S. stock index futures indicated a higher start Monday as markets reopen after the Christmas holiday and investors assess the spread of the omicron Covid-19 variant. Dow Jones Industrial Average futures rose by about 80 points, or 0.2%. S&P 500 futures added 0.4% and Nasdaq 100 futures ticked up 0.5%. Airline stocks fell after a holiday weekend that saw thousands of flights canceled due to Covid-related issues. The rampant spread of the omicron variant led to a staffing shortage at a time when airlines were looking to ramp up their schedules to meet high travel demand. United Airlines fell 2.2% in premarket trading, while American Airlines dipped 1.9% and Delta Air Lines was off 1.7%. Cruise line shares also retreated in early morning trading after Covid outbreaks on ships. Carnival slid 2.8%, Royal Caribbean lost 2.3% and Norwegian Cruise Line slid 2.8%. However, market strategists remained positive on the overall equity outlook amid the surge in Covid cases. “We do not expect Omicron to impact the growth outlook in any significant way, but rather it is likely to accelerate the end of the pandemic,” JPMorgan’s Dubravko Lakos-Bujas said in a note Monday. Holiday sales rose 8.5% in 2021 from last year, the fastest pace in 17 years, according to Mastercard data. The results came despite a backdrop of supply chain disruptions, higher prices and the omicron variant in the last few weeks of shopping. Elsewhere, shares of GoDaddy jumped 3.4% in the premarket after reports that activist investor Starboard Value LP took a 6.5% stake in the domain registrar. Investors are looking for a Santa Claus rally to close out a year in which the S&P 500 has gained a whopping 25.8%. The benchmark index historically gains during the Santa Claus rally period — the final five trading days of the current year and the first two of the new year. On Thursday, with markets closed Friday, the Dow Jones Industrial Average added 196.67 points, or 0.55%, to 35,950.56. The S&P 500 rose 0.62% to 4,725.79 and closed at a record. The 500-stock average sits less than 0.4% from its intraday record high. The Nasdaq Composite gained 0.85% to 15,653.37. Helping boost sentiment were new studies suggesting that omicron has a lower risk of hospitalization than other Covid variants. U.S. infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci said Sunday that cases of Covid-19 are likely going to keep surging as the omicron variant rapidly spreads across the globe.  “Every day it goes up and up. The last weekly average was about 150,000 and it likely will go much  higher,” Fauci said on ABC’s “This Week.” The U.S. has reported more than 52 million total cases, according to Johns Hopkins University. Driving the surge is the omicron variant, which took over as the dominant strain earlier this month. A slew of economic data on Thursday last week showed a stable economy with improving labor and spending trends, but inflation at high levels. The Federal Reserve’s closely watched core personal consumption expenditures price index rose 0.6% in November from the month prior. Core PCE rose 4.7% year-over-year in November, higher than the 4.5% rate expected. On the data front Monday, the Dallas Fed manufacturing index is due out at 10:30 a.m. ET. Shares in Asia-Pacific were mixed on Monday, with multiple major markets in the region closed for holidays. Mainland Chinese stocks closed mixed, with the Shanghai composite dipping fractionally to 3,615.97 while the Shenzhen component rose slightly to around 14,715.65. Elsewhere, the Nikkei 225 in Japan slipped 0.37% on the day to 28,676.46 while the Topix index shed 0.45% to 1,977.90. South Korea’s Kospi fell 0.43% to close at 2,999.55. U.S. oil fell on Monday after airlines called off thousands of flights over the Christmas holidays amid surging COVID-19 cases, though Brent crude gained support from hopes that the Omicron variant will have limited impact on global demand. More than 1,300 flights were cancelled by U.S. airlines on Sunday as COVID-19 reduced the number of available crews while several cruise ships had to cancel stops. U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude was down 85 cents, or 1.2%, at $72.94 a barrel. The U.S. market was closed on Friday for a holiday. Global benchmark Brent crude rose 11 cents, or 0.1%, to $76.25. Gold prices slipped in thin trade on Monday as the U.S. dollar rebounded, though bullion was still hovering close to a one-week high as concerns over the Omicron coronavirus variant increased safe-haven demand. Spot gold was down 0.2% at $1,804.49 an ounce by 1326 GMT but remained above the $1,800 reached last week. U.S. gold futures slipped 0.3% to $1,806.50.