U.S. stocks were little changed near all-time highs as investors await signs that Washington is moving forward with a spending bill. Crude oil futures dropped for a second day, while the dollar rose for the first day in five.
The S&P 500 was virtually unchanged ahead of a three-day weekend. The index has ended three straight days within 0.2% of its prior close after a rally Monday. Expedia Group Inc. fell after reporting results that missed expectations. European stocks steadied after opening lower, with travel and mining shares dropping the most, while media stocks advanced.
After touching records, markets are pausing among mixed signals and a lack of fresh catalysts. Even as vaccines are distributed to millions, the emergence of new virus variants threaten to extend lockdowns and delay economic recoveries. House Democrats made progress on the spending bill, approving $1,400 checks to most Americans.
The Senate remained occupied by Donald Trump’s impeachment trial. “Largely moving sideways is a reflection of the fact that we’ve had some pretty significant volatility in the two weeks preceding that and now we’re waiting for some of the current catalysts to manifest themselves — so when and how large will stimulus be?” said Arthur Hogan, chief market strategist at National Securities Corp.
Despite losses on Friday, global stock markets are still on track for a weekly advance, with the MSCI World up 1.1% in the past five days. The S&P 500 has gained 0.7% in the period. Part of the reason behind the rally is that investors believe President Joe Biden’s Covid-19 relief package will deliver plenty of aid to the U.S. economy.
On Thursday, the House Ways and Means Committee advanced legislation that would provide $593.5 billion in benefits, most of which is made up of $1,400 stimulus payments. At the same time, the vaccine rollout is making progress. Biden announced on Thursday that the U.S. has finished deals for 100 million additional vaccine doses each from Pfizer Inc. and Moderna Inc.
Elsewhere in markets, Bitcoin traded near a record. In European stocks, ING Groep NV gained 4.8% on better-than-expected earnings and as it signaled possible buybacks. L’Oreal SA also advanced after reporting an increase on sales in the fourth quarter.