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Stock market live Thursday: Nasdaq jumps another 2%, post-election rally, Fed not out of ammo

Stocks advanced on Thursday, building on their post-election rally. The Nasdaq Composite once again outperformed the Dow and the S&P 500 as investors piled into technology names. With Thursday's gains, major averages are on track for their best week since April.

Thursday's rally by the numbers

  • Dow closed up 1.95% for its fourth straight positive day and its first four-day gain with each day gaining 1% or greater since Oct. 11, 1982
  • Dow is up 7.13% this week, on pace for its best week since April 9 when the Dow gained 12.67%
  • S&P 500 closed up 1.95% for its fourth straight positive day and its first four-day gain with each day gaining 1% or greater since Oct. 11, 1982
  • S&P 500 is up 7.35% this week, on pace for its first positive week in three and its best week since April 9 when the S&P gained 12.1%
  • Nasdaq Composite closed up 2.59% for its fourth straight positive day
  • Nasdaq is up 8.98% this week, on pace for its best week since April 9 when the Nasdaq gained 10.59%
  • Ten out of 11 sectors were positive Thursday led by materials, which gained up 4.05%.

— Gina Francolla

Stocks close sharply higher, post-election rally continues

U.S. equities closed sharply higher on Thursday, adding to their strong week of gains amid the ongoing presidential election. The Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 542 points, or 1.95%. The S&P 500 rose 1.94%. The Nasdaq Composite was the outperformer, jumping 2.6% amid a boom in technology stocks.

— Maggie Fitzgerald

Powell said Fed discussing ways to change asset purchases, but no change yet

Fed Chairman Jerome Powell said the central bank has discussed how it could change its asset purchase program, but it has thus far chosen to keep it as is.

"Right now, we like the job it's doing," said Powell.

The Fed is currently buying $80 billion in Treasurys and $40 billion in mortgage securities per month in an open-ended program, but it is also buying corporate and municipal bonds in separate programs. Some market pros expect the Fed to increase purchases of Treasurys or to change the duration of the securities they are buying.

Powell said the Fed had a "good" discussion of those parameters at its two-day meeting, but decided not to make any change for now.

"I would just say we understand there are a number of parameters we can shift" in terms of composition, duration and size of the purchases, Powell said at his press briefing. 

"It seems like it's keeping the door open to a possible change in December and they're being very thoughtful about ways to tweak it," said BMO fixed income strategist Jon Hill.

—Patti Domm

Drop in continuing claims not necessarily a positive sign, economist says

This morning's initial jobless claims report from the Labor Department showed a slight decrease in initial claims week over week and a decrease of more than 500,000 continuing claims.

However, AnnElizabeth Konkel, an economist at Indeed Hiring Lab, said the decline in continuing claims could be the result of normal benefits expiring and people shifting to other programs, such as the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation, or off the rolls entirely.

"At least a portion of the fall in regular continuing claims is due to people exhausting benefits and then some of those are rolling onto the PEUC program ... that to me is an indicator that labor market scarring is happening in real time," Konkel said. The program had just under 4 million participants during the latest week for which data is available.

Konkel also said that she put more weight on the full monthly jobs report, slated to be released tomorrow, and was focusing on several factors such as labor force participation rate and unemployment for women in that report.

— Jesse Pound

Powell says monetary policy hasn't exhausted its ammo to support economy

Asked if he believes the Fed's tools to stimulate the U.S. economy have been fully exhausted, Powell replied: "The answer to that is 'No.'"

"I don't think that. I think that we are strongly committed to using these powerful tools that we have to support the economy during this difficult time for as long as needed. And no one should have any doubt about that," Powell said. "We do not doubt the power of the things that we have already done or the things we may do in the future."

"I do think there's more that can be done," he added.

Thomas Franck

VIDEO4:1304:13
Monetary policy is not out of ammo and we remain strongly committed: Fed's Jerome Powell

More monetary, fiscal policy 'likely to be needed,' Powell says

Fed Chair Jerome Powell reiterated on Thursday his call for more fiscal support as the economy tries to recover amid the ongoing pandemic.

"It's for Congress to decide the timing, size and components of further fiscal support for the economy, and I will say the support provided by the CARES Act was absolutely essential in supporting the recovery we've seen so far, which has exceeded expectations," Powell said. "And I do think it's likely that further support is likely to be needed from monetary policy and fiscal policy."

Powell and others at the Fed have been calling for additional fiscal stimulus for several months. When asked if a lack of further fiscal support would change the central bank's policy choices, Powell said the central bank would consider "all external factors" in making its decisions.

— Jesse Pound

Powell says wearing masks will help economy

VIDEO1:5901:59
Pace of improvement will moderate as more people return to work: Jerome Powell

Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell cited the use of masks as a way to help the economy. In the Fed's post-meeting statement, it said the course of the coronavirus will impact the path of the economy.

Powell then said the wearing of masks will help the economy get back to full strength during his opening remarks.

—Patti Domm

Powell press conference begins with discussion of US economic outlook

Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell began the central bank's press conference by discussing the current outlook for the U.S. economy and efforts to help output return to its pre-Covid levels.

He also said the Fed's balance sheet, comprised of various debt including U.S. bonds, is expanding at a rate of $120 billion per month.

Powell is expected to field questions from reporters following his introductory remarks, when he may comment on efforts by Congress to pass additional fiscal stimulus.

Thomas Franck

VIDEO9:4209:42
Watch Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell's opening remarks following recent decision to leave rates unchanged

Fed holds rates near zero, says economy still below pre-Covid levels

VIDEO3:0903:09
Federal Reserve leaves rates unchanged as the economy continues to recover from the pandemic

The Federal Reserve on Thursday said it would hold interest rates steady near zero in a move widely expected as the U.S. economy continues its effort to recover from a recession earlier this year caused by the coronavirus.

The central bank did note, however, that the economy is still functioning below pre-Covid levels as a record number of new infections in the U.S. continues to prevent Americans from enjoying all of their normal activities.

There were few language changes in the post-meeting statement from the Federal Open Market Committee, though the panel did note that the economy continues to struggle.

"Economic activity and employment have continued to recover but remain well below their levels at the beginning of the year," the statement said.

Thomas Franck, Jeff Cox

Stock futures saw record trading volumes on election night

Futures contracts tied to the Nasdaq 100 and Russell 2000 exchanged hands at a record pace on election night as traders tried to gauge the outcome of the vote. CME Group said Micro E-mini Nasdaq 100 futures had an overnight volume of 549,843, topping a previous record of 539,920. E-mini Russell 2000 futures contracts exchanged hands more than 76,000 times over that time period, also a record.

Fred Imbert

Traders await Fed decision at 2 p.m., Powell's remarks at presser

Wall Street traders turned their attention to the Federal Reserve with 15 minutes until the central bank's latest decision on the course of monetary policy.

Though traders didn't expect any major changes to the current course of low interest rates and massive asset-purchase program, many were eager to see if Chairman Jerome Powell would again call upon Congress to pass more fiscal stimulus.

Powell, who in recent weeks has warned that failure to pass more stimulus could weigh on the economic recovery in the U.S., will host a press conference at 2:30 p.m. ET and answer questions from reporters.

Thomas Franck

Expectation of monetary help from Fed boosting gold, Wells Fargo strategist says

John LaForge, head of real asset strategy at Wells Fargo Investment Institute, told CNBC that the expectation of further monetary support from the Federal Reserve in the months ahead was boosting demand for gold.

"The election was a distraction, and investors have come back to 'Now wait a minute, we're still spending all this money, we're debasing the currency. We want something that holds its value,'" LaForge said. The Federal Reserve is not expected to announce any major policy changes at the conclusion of its meeting on Thursday.

Though the election outcome is still uncertain, victory by Republicans in several key Senate races reduced expectations for a massive fiscal stimulus under a potential Joe Biden administration. However, LaForge said that traders in the precious metals and cryptocurrency markets expected the Fed to pick up the slack in that scenario, leading to downward pressure on the U.S. dollar and demand for store-of-value assets.

"Look at the action today in the other precious metals. If you look at silver, platinum, palladium. If you put them all up against gold and Bitcoin today, they look like the same chart," he said.

LaForge also said that gold was poised for a technical breakout, helping its price action on Thursday, while he doubted that the move was being driven by concerns about the continued election uncertainty.

— Jesse Pound

Midday movers

Qualcomm – Shares of Qualcomm surged more than 12% after the chipmaker reported stronger-than-expected quarterly results.

Verizon – Shares of Verizon jumped 2% after JPMorgan upgraded the wireless telecommunications giant to overweight from neutral.

Expedia Group – Shares of the travel website jumped 4.2% after the company beat top and bottom line estimates during the third quarter. 

Check out some other notable movers here.

— Jesse Pound

Bitcoin surges past $15,000

Bitcoin's price climbed above $15,000 on Thursday, hitting the highest level since January 2018. The world's largest cryptocurrency last traded nearly 9% higher at a price of $15,233, according to data from industry website CoinDesk.

Bitcoin has more than doubled in value in 2020. Its meteoric rise comes on the back of unprecedented stimulus from governments and global central banks during the coronavirus pandemic, which some industry insiders believe has made the virtual currency more attractive than fiat currencies like the dollar.

— Ryan Browne, Yun Li

Markets at midday: Stocks rally for a second day as election results awaited

The major averages were sharply higher for a second day as traders looked for clarity on the U.S. presidential and Senate elections. The Dow jumped more than 500 points, or 2%. The S&P 500 gained 2.1% and the Nasdaq Composite gained 2.4%.

Fred Imbert

Divided government lowers chances for tech regulation, Ives says

The increasing possibility of a divided government is bullish for tech stocks because it will defuse the regulatory pressure on some of the stock market's largest companies, Wedbush analyst Dan Ives said in a note.

"While the DOJ suit vs. Google and potentially others on the horizon remains a long-term threat with litigation likely to go for years, for now the Beltway vs. Big Tech regulatory environment looks less onerous than it could have in a Blue Wave scenario and stocks are reacted accordingly in snapback fashion," Ives said.

Ives also cited the possibility of decreased tensions with China under a Joe Biden administration as a positive outcome for tech stocks. He said the tech sector broadly could rise another 10% to 15% by the end of the year.

— Jesse Pound

Gold surging ahead of Fed announcement

The price of gold moved higher on Thursday as the election outcome remained unclear and investors prepared for a Fed policy announcement in the afternoon. December futures contracts for gold rose more than 2.3% to $1940 per ounce, the highest level since September.

Silver, copper and platinum were also moving higher.

— Jesse Pound

Stock rally gains momentum, S&P headed for best week since April

Stocks' rally picked up steam on Thursday, putting the major averages on track for their best week in months. The S&P 500 and Nasdaq Composite are on track for their largely weekly advances since April, rising 7% and 8.5%, respectively. The Dow, meanwhile, is up 5.8% for the week and on track for its best week since June.

The Dow last traded 366 points higher for a gain of 1.3%, while the S&P and Nasdaq were up 1.7% and 2.2%, respectively.

On Wednesday the Dow jumped 1.34% while the S&P gained 2.2%. The Nasdaq Composite was the relative outperformer, advancing 3.85% in its best day since April.

— Pippa Stevens

Stocks open higher as U.S. awaits result of presidential election

U.S. stocks jumped at the open on Thursday, extending Wednesday's rally, as investors hoped that the outcome of the presidential election would soon be determined. The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 376 points for a gain of 1.35%. The S&P 500 was up 1.54%, while the Nasdaq Composite traded 1.9% higher.

— Pippa Stevens

Initial claims slightly higher than expected

Initial jobless claims for the last week of October came in at 751,000, which was 10,000 higher than economists surveyed by Dow Jones had expected. The data point was a slight improvement over the revised number of 758,000 claims from the prior week, but it is still well above the pre-pandemic average.

— Jesse Pound

General Motors reports strong earnings, shares jump

Shares of General Motors were up 6.1% after the car maker posted better-than-expected earnings for the third quarter. GM earned an adjusted $2.83 per share. Analysts polled by Refinitiv expected a profit of $1.38 per share. The company's earnings were driven strong truck and SUV sales in North America.

John Stapleton, GM's interim CFO, said the automaker's sales in the U.S. and China are "recovering faster than many people expected, and GM is benefiting from robust customer demand for our new vehicles and services, especially our full-size pickups and SUVs."

Fred Imbert, Michael Wayland

Federal Reserve's regular meeting ends today, could call for more stimulus

The Federal Reserve is expected to wrap its regular two-day meeting on Thursday with no major proclamations as central bank leaders distance themselves from the chaos of the 2020 elections. Chairman Jerome Powell is expected, however, to be asked about one of the market's top concerns: more fiscal stimulus from Congress.

Though the Fed typically refrains from weighing in on congressional affairs, the central bank's leading role in helping the U.S. economy through the effects of the coronavirus has forced Powell and his deputies to slowly increase calls for additional support from lawmakers in recent months.

Specifically, Powell has warned that failure to pass more relief could prompt a more rapid decline in consumer spending or missed rent payments.

"The risk is that, over time, they go through those savings, they haven't been able to find employment yet because it's going to take a while to get 11 million people back to work, so their spending will decline," Powell said in September. "Their ability to stay in their homes will decline. So, the economy will begin to feel those negative effects at some time."

Stimulus talks had stalled between the White House and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in the weeks leading up to the 2020 elections. Though Senate Republicans had balked at Democrats' calls for a $2 trillion bill, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Wednesday that additional fiscal relief will be chamber's top focus when it reconvenes next week.

Thomas Franck

Qualcomm shares surge on strong earnings

Qualcomm shares rallied more than 14% in the premarket after the chip maker reported quarterly earnings and revenue that beat analyst expectations. The company earned an adjusted $1.45 per share on revenue of $6.5 billion. Analysts expected earnings per share of $1.17 on revenue of $5.93 billion.

"Our fiscal fourth quarter results demonstrate that our investments in 5G are coming to fruition and
showing benefits in our licensing and product businesses," CEO Steve Mollenkopf said in a statement.

Fred Imbert, Kif Leswing

Initial jobless claims to be released in an hour

Investors will get another look at the health of the labor market when initial jobless claims are released at 8:30 am ET. The data will show the number of Americans who filed for unemployment during the last week of October. Economists surveyed by Dow Jones are expecting 741,000 new claims, down slightly from 751,000 the week before.

— Jesse Pound

Cramer says a divided White House and Congress is ‘nirvana for growth stocks'

CNBC's Jim Cramer said a divided government could be a catalyst for growth stocks to rally. "Finally, we can stop fretting about politics and start focusing on business and your money again, because a divided Congress and a blue White House … is nirvana for growth stocks," the "Mad Money" host said.

Democratic nominee Joe Biden is leading President Donald Trump in electoral college votes with Republicans likely to retain control of the Senate after Tuesday's election. Cramer projects that the status quo Congress will dim chances that lawmakers raise capital gains taxes as the former vice president has proposed in his tax plan.

"They don't want upheaval, and they certainly don't want higher taxes, something that would've been on the agenda if the so-called blue wave had washed over Washington," Cramer said, noting that it would impact portfolios. "It increasingly looks like Biden's going to win, but he'll have to govern with a Republican Senate."

—Tyler Clifford, Maggie Fitzgerald

Election now hinges on close counts in a few states

Democratic nominee Joe Biden held 253 electoral votes after racking up wins in Wisconsin and Michigan, leaving him 17 shy of the 270 needed to win the White House, according to NBC News. The presidential election has come down to just a few states: Arizona, Nevada, Georgia, Pennsylvania and North Carolina, which have not been called by NBC News.

Follow the election updates here.

Yun Li

Stock futures rally as Wall Street looks for clarity on presidential election

U.S. stock futures rose sharply on Thursday morning as traders hoped the winner of the U.S. presidential election would be determined soon. Dow Jones Industrial Average futures were up nearly 400 points, or 1.4%. S&P 500 futures gained 1.8% and Nasdaq 100 futures rallied 2.6%. Late Wednesday, NBC News projected that former Vice President Joe Biden was the winner in Wisconsin and Michigan. That would put him just 17 Electoral College votes away from winning. Stocks were coming off a strong session on Wednesday, with the Nasdaq Composite surging nearly 4%.

Fred Imbert, Pippa Stevens