Stocks were higher to start Thursday with the Dow adding 238 points, or 0.8%. The S&P 500 rose 1.4% to trade above 3,800 for the first time, while the Nasdaq advanced 2.1% to a new high above 13,000.
Congress confirmed the election of Joe Biden for President early Thursday, just hours after a mob of President Donald Trump’s supporters invaded the U.S. Capital in a chaotic effort to stop the certification of Biden’s win. The joint proceedings were disrupted for several hours as the violent pro-Trump mob overran police lines, besieged the House chamber, and entered the Senate chamber, sending lawmakers fleeing for safety. While President Trump’s Twitter and Facebook accounts have been suspended for the rest of his term in office following his inciting and condoning of the actions of his supporters, he said in a tweet through a surrogate that he is willing to allow an “orderly transition [of power] on January 20th,” but also added that “it’s only the beginning of our fight.” In the fall-out from yesterday’s events, several White House staffers have resigned their posts, former Attorney General Bill Barr said Trump’s inciting a violent insurrection on Capitol Hill was a “betrayal of his office and supporters,” and dozens of congresspeople including Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer have called for Trump’s immediate removal from office.
Weekly jobless claims were little changed last week despite other indications that the labor market weakened at the end of 2020. The Labor Department said weekly initial jobless claims totaled 787,000 for the week ended January 2, compared to the prior week’s reading of 790,000. Continuing claims fell to 5.07 million, while the number of those receiving benefits from all programs declined slightly to 19.2 million. “The current wave of [COVID-19] infections is weighing on activity,” said Michael Feroli, chief U.S. economist at JPMorgan. “What we are seeing, I think pretty clearly, is a notable deceleration in the labor market over the last several weeks.”
A record number of people in the U.S. died from COVID-19 on Tuesday and Wednesday. Tuesday saw a record 3,733 deaths from the virus, while Wednesday’s death toll rose to 3,865. Over the past seven days, the U.S. has reported an average of 2,686 fatalities every day, a figure second only to the record set just two weeks ago. Holiday gatherings led to a predicted explosion in COVID-19 cases, overwhelming hospitals across the nation as the vaccine rollout gets off to a rocky start. Since the coronavirus arrived in the U.S. nearly 12 months ago, at least 361,453 Americans have died from COVID-19, resulting in 1 in every 914 U.S. residents dying of the coronavirus since the pandemic began. As the death toll continues to climb, the number of new daily cases continues to soar as well. The U.S. reported 253,100 new cases on Wednesday, bringing the seven-day average to its highest level ever at 222,653.
Tesla’s Elon Musk is now the richest person in the world as the stock has gained more than 6% this morning to a new high of $803 per share. Musk’s net worth has risen to more than $185 billion, surpassing Amazon’s Jeff Bezos’—who has been the riches person in the world since 2017—net worth of around $184 billion. The milestone caps an extraordinary 12 months for Musk, who saw his wealth soar by more than $150 billion in 2020, marking what is possibly the fastest rise to the top of the rich list in history.
And Walgreens shares are up nearly 7% this morning after it reported fiscal first-quarter earnings that exceeded Wall Street’s expectations. Walgreens posted earnings per share of $1.22 on revenue of $36.31 billion, compared to forecasts for earnings of $1.03 per share on revenue of $34.95 billion. “Our first quarter results exceeded expectations as we continue to deliver on our strategic priorities,” Walgreens CEO Stefano Pessina said in a statement. “While the business environment remains challenging, we are rising to the occasion with agility and discipline and we are confident in our outlook for adjusted EPS for the fiscal year.”
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Plug Power (NASDAQ: PLUG): Plug Power shares are up 30% today after the company said yesterday that South Korean firm SK Holdings is investing $1.5 billion in Plug to speed up the adoption of hydrogen technology in Asia. “SK Group has an established strategy for building out the hydrogen economy in South Korea and beyond,” said Andy Marsh, CEO for Plug Power. “The current relationship with SK Group offers immediate strategic benefits to Plug Power to accelerate its expansion into Asian markets – and is intended to result in a formal joint venture (JV) by 2022. Due to the complementary strengths in this partnership, we expect rapid growth and significant revenue generation from the joint venture that are incremental to our 2024 plan.”