Here are the most important news, trends and analysis that investors need to start their trading day:
- S&P 500 set for record at open in a relief rally after Fed's tightening decision
- Trio of economic reports hit before the bell, including jobless claims
- Fed reveals faster taper, plans to begin rate hikes from near zero in 2022
- As omicron spreads, Regeneron works on new treatment for the variant
- Delta Air Lines forecasts Q4 profit as travel demand, fares increase
1. S&P 500 set for record at open in a relief rally after Fed's tightening decision
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Dow futures rose more than 200 points Thursday, pointing to a continued surge as investors seemed satisfied with the Federal Reserve's plan to accelerate its bond-buying taper and projections for three interest rate hikes next year.
- The 30-stock average, the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq were lower before the Fed's decision Wednesday afternoon following its two-day December meeting.
- The S&P 500 finished 1.6% higher, just a couple of points away from last week's record close.
- The Dow and Nasdaq rose 1% and more than 2%, respectively, ending the day nearly 1.4% and 3% away from last month's record closes.
- While the Nasdaq was the big winner Wednesday, the index has been hardest hit recently along with tech stocks.
2. Trio of economic reports hit before the bell, including jobless claims
Following this week's hot inflation figures and weaker retail sales growth, the government said Thursday that filings for initial jobless claims rose to a higher-than-expected 206,000 for the week ended Dec. 11. New claims for the prior week were revised slightly higher to 188,000, still the lowest tally in about five decades. Also Thursday morning, the government said November housing starts surged, while the Philadelphia Fed saw its December business conditions index plummet.
3. Fed reveals faster taper, plans to begin rate hikes from near zero in 2022
The trio of economic reports come one day after the Fed provided multiple indications that its run of ultra-easy policy since the beginning of the Covid pandemic is coming to a close.
- Once the faster tapering ends in late winter or early spring, central bankers expect to start raising interest rates, which were held steady near zero at this week's meeting.
- In addition to as many as three rate hikes next year, two more are seen in 2023 followed by two in 2024.
- For next year, the Fed increased its inflation outlook, reduced its economic growth forecast and called for an improved jobs market.
- The Fed's policy again noted that developments with the Covid pandemic, particularly variants, pose risks to the outlook.
4. As omicron spreads, Regeneron works on new treatment for the variant
The Covid omicron variant spreading around the world may bring another wave of chaos to the U.S., threatening to further stretch hospital workers already struggling with a surge of delta cases, and upend holiday plans for the second year in a row. The White House on Wednesday insisted there was no need for a lockdown because vaccines are widely available and appear to offer protection against the worst consequences of the virus.
On Thursday, Regeneron Pharmaceuticals said its "next generation" antibodies Covid treatment was active against all known variants of concern, including omicron and delta. The company said its currently authorized antibodies have "diminished potency against Omicron" but added they are "active against Delta, which currently is the most prevalent variant in the U.S."
5. Delta Air Lines forecasts Q4 profit as travel demand, fares increase
Delta Air Lines said Thursday it now expects to see a pretax profit of $200 million for the fourth quarter. The carrier previously projected a loss. Shares in the premarket rose more than 2% on the news. The Atlanta-based airline also said it expects fourth-quarter revenue to come in 26% below 2019 levels when it brought it $11.44 billion, according to a securities filing ahead of its first in-person investor day since before the pandemic.
— The Associated Press contributed to this report. Follow all the market action like a pro on CNBC Pro. Get the latest on the pandemic with CNBC's coronavirus coverage.