Stock futures hold steady after S&P 500 closes just under a record

Futures contracts tied to the major U.S. stock indexes held steady at the start of the overnight session Wednesday evening just hours after the S&P 500 flirted with, but fell just short of, a new record close.

Dow Jones Industrial Average futures shed just 2 points at the start of the overnight session, implying an opening move around the flatline when regular trading resumes. S&P 500 and Nasdaq-100 futures also posted muted trades.

The after-hours moves Wednesday evening followed a rally during the regular session, with the major indexes climbing amid a rebound in Big Tech, strength from health care and gains in discretionary equities.

The S&P 500 gained 1.4% during Wednesday's regular session in its largest one-day jump since July 6. The broad market index finished the day at 3,380.35. In the final hour of trading, the broader market index briefly traded above its record closing high of 3,386.15.

The index has risen every day this month except for a 0.8% loss on Tuesday; it's up 3.3% since the end of July.

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Household consumer tech names Facebook, Apple and Amazon rallied 1.4%, 3.3% and 2.6% during Wednesday's regular trading while Netflix and Microsoft added 1.8% and 2.8%, respectively.

Stocks that would benefit most from the economy reopening started Wednesday's session off strong, but ultimately ended the day lagging the tech names. Cruise operator Carnival dropped 4%. JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America and Citigroup were all lower. 

Investors continue to keep a watchful eye on Washington, where the nation's top lawmakers continue to haggle over a new coronavirus-relief package for American households and businesses.

Though Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi both said this week that the two sides are far away from an agreement, many investors believe a deal is inevitable.

"The market still wants, and very much expects, an actual stimulus bill to be signed," wrote Tom Essaye, editor of the Sevens Report.

"Looking forward, stimulus bill negotiations will continue, but [President Trump's] executive orders (combined with recently solid data) likely reduce the urgency to get something done, so realistically the market will be looking for an agreement over the next few weeks," he added.

The latest iteration of the Labor Department report on weekly jobless claims will be released Thursday morning.

The weekly figures provide Wall Street with critical insight on how many Americans continue to collect unemployment benefits, known as continuing claims.

Another 1.1 million workers are expected to have filed first-time claims for state unemployment benefits during the week ended August 8. That would mark a deceleration from the prior week, though still well above any reading prior to the pre-Covid era. 

Last week, the government said initial jobless claims rose by 1.18 million during the week ended August 1. That marked the 20th straight week in which initial claims remained above 1 million.

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