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U.S. equities post modest weekly gains as traders eye stimulus, economic data

New York, U.S. | Xinhua | Wall Street’s major averages advanced in the week as investors assessed the possibility of a U.S. stimulus bill, while digesting a slew of economic data.

For the week ending Friday, the Dow finished up 1 percent, the S&P 500 added 1.2 percent, and the Nasdaq Composite booked a 1.7-percent weekly climb. U.S. markets will be closed on Monday in observance of Presidents’ Day.

The S&P U.S. Listed China 50 index, which is designed to track the performance of the 50 largest Chinese companies listed on U.S. exchanges by total market cap, logged a weekly rise of 5.9 percent.

The likelihood regarding further COVID-19 aid package continued to be a focus on Wall Street.

U.S. President Joe Biden has repeatedly defended his 1.9-trillion-U.S.-dollar relief package, calling it necessary to help rein in a raging pandemic and bail out a ravaged economy.

Biden’s rescue plan includes more than 400 billion dollars to directly combat the pandemic, roughly 1 trillion in direct relief to households, and more than 400 billion for hard-hit small businesses and communities.

It contains direct payments of 1,400 dollars per person for working families, which is on top of the 600-dollar check in the 900-billion relief. It would also boost federal unemployment benefits to 400 dollars per week and extend the measure through the end of September.

Republican lawmakers, who stand for a much smaller COVID-19 relief, have lashed out at Democrats’ move to pass a procedural step that would allow them to push through the big bill in Congress without Republican support, calling it a partisan process.

Economists, meanwhile, voiced concerns about inflation risks and the ballooning deficit, noting that long-term economic challenges lie ahead, and that more investment in infrastructure and elsewhere would be vital for the country’s future economic growth.

Amid widespread COVID-19 shutdowns in March and April last year, 22 million Americans lost their jobs. Despite some improvement, the U.S. labor market has seen its recovery stalled in recent months amid surging COVID-19 cases.

U.S. initial jobless claims, a rough way to measure layoffs, came in at 793,000 in the week ending Feb. 6, a decrease of 19,000 from the previous week’s revised level, the Department of Labor reported on Thursday. The reading was worse than an estimate of 760,000 from economists polled by Dow Jones.

According to a monthly employment report by the Labor Department, U.S. employers added just 49,000 jobs this January, after slashing a downwardly revised 227,000 jobs in December.

On Wednesday, Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell said the U.S. employment picture is still “very far from a strong labor market,” while underscoring the importance of maintaining “a patiently accommodative monetary policy stance” to boost the labor market recovery amid the pandemic.

Other data also added evidence that the U.S. economic recovery is still struggling.

The U.S. consumer price index (CPI) rose 0.3 percent in January, the Department of Labor reported on Wednesday, matching expectations from economists polled by Dow Jones. The core CPI, which excludes volatile food and energy prices, was unchanged last month. Meanwhile, CPI inflation was up 1.4 percent over the past 12 months, showed the report.

“The unpredictable nature of the pandemic and vaccine rollout have complicated economic forecasting models in 2021,” Mitch Zacks, CEO at Zacks Investment Management, said in a note on Saturday.

As “there is no way to know exactly how or when the economy will recover,” “I recommend staying focused on the fundamentals and key data points that can positively impact your investments in the long-term,” he said.

The United States has registered more than 27.5 million confirmed COVID-19 cases with about 483,000 related deaths as of Saturday afternoon, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University, both figures the highest in the world.

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Xinhua

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