5 Things to Know

5 things to know before the stock market opens Thursday

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1. Last trading day of 2020 on Wall Street

Ornaments on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) holiday tree at Wall Street on December 9, 2020 in New York City.
Angela Weiss | AFP | Getty Images

The stock market is poised to wrap up a tumultuous 2020 that showed surprisingly strong gains.

Stock futures were mixed Thursday. Heading into the final session of 2020, the S&P 500 has risen 15.5% after soaring 70% from its March pandemic low. The Dow Jones Industrial Average has gained 6.6% year to date, while the Nasdaq Composite has rallied more than 43% as investors favored high-growth technology companies during the pandemic.

2. Jobless claims come in below estimates

A help wanted sign is posted at a taco stand in Solana Beach, California.
Mike Blake | Reuters

The number of first-time unemployment-benefits filers totaled 787,000 for the week ending Dec. 26, the Labor Department said Thursday. Economists polled by Dow Jones were expecting 828,000.

Still, the number remained well above pre-pandemic levels. Those receiving benefits under all unemployment programs dropped by nearly 800,000 to 19.6 million, but that compares with 1.8 million a year ago.

3. Europe shares post yearly losses of 3.8%

A European Union (EU) flies alongside a British Union flag, also known as a Union Jack in London.
Jason Alden | Bloomberg Creative Photos | Getty Images

European markets, which closed early on Thursday, logged modest losses for 2020. The pan-European Stoxx 600 index closed 0.14% lower on New Year's Eve after a shorter trading session, bringing its 2020 losses to 3.8%. The worst-performing market in the region has been Spain's IBEX, down 15% this year.

4. California has identified its first case of mutant Covid strain found in U.K.

Gavin Newsom, governor of California, speaks during a news conference in Sacramento, California
Rich Pedroncelli | Bloomberg | Getty Images

California health officials have identified the state's first case of a new and more infectious strain of Covid-19 that was initially discovered in the United Kingdom. The patient is a 30-year-old man in San Diego County who began showing symptoms on Sunday, county officials confirmed Wednesday.

"I don't think that the Californians should feel that this is something odd. This is something that's expected," White House coronavirus advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci said Wednesday during a live Q&A session with California Gov. Gavin Newsom. Fauci said other states will likely soon identify their own cases of the new strain. The first confirmed case of the strain in the United States was found in Colorado, the state announced Tuesday.

5. U.S. slaps tariffs on French and German wines, aircraft parts

Qantas A380 taking off on runway in Saxony, Dresden on Aug. 21, 2020
Tino Plunert | picture alliance | Getty Images

U.S. trade officials said Wednesday they were hiking tariffs on certain European Union products, including aircraft-related parts and wines from France and Germany.

The move came amid a 16-year U.S.-EU dispute over civil aviation subsidies involving European aircraft company Airbus and its U.S.-based rival Boeing.

In a statement, the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative said the EU had unfairly calculated tariffs against the U.S. that are allowed by a September World Trade Organization ruling in the ongoing dispute: "The EU needs to take some measure to compensate for this unfairness."

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