Futures near record highs as stimulus hopes build

(Reuters) – U.S. stock index futures held near all-time highs on Friday as growing prospects for further economic stimulus and continued optimism over a COVID-19 vaccine-driven economic recovery lifted sentiment.

FILE PHOTO: The Fearless Girl statue is seen as the U.S. flag covers the front facade of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York City, New York, U.S., November 9, 2020. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid/File Photo

A bipartisan, $908 billion coronavirus aid plan gained momentum in the U.S. Congress on Thursday, after a months-long standoff between Republicans and Democrats over a stimulus package for businesses and millions of people affected by virus-led shutdowns.

A Labor Department’s closely watched report, expected at 8:30 a.m. ET (1330 GMT), is likely to show U.S. employers hired the fewest workers in six months in November, hindered by a resurgence in COVID-19 cases and a lack of more government relief money.

The unemployment rate is estimated to dip to 6.8% in November from 6.9% last month.

So far positive vaccine updates from major drugmakers have eclipsed bleak economic readings and a surge in infections, setting the Wall Street’s main indexes for another week of gains after the benchmark S&P 500 clocked its best November.

Growing confidence that a working COVID-19 vaccine would be administered before the end of the year has revived demand for the hardest-hit airlines and tourism stocks.

Shares of U.S. carriers and cruise lines including American Airlines, Norwegian Cruise Line and Carnival Corp were up between 2% and 3.3% in premarket trade.

At 06:25 a.m. ET, Dow E-minis were up 120 points, or 0.4%, and S&P 500 E-minis were up 11.25 points, or 0.31%. Nasdaq 100 E-minis were up 44.75 points, or 0.36%.

Drugmaker Pfizer fell 0.8%, extending declines from the previous session when it flagged challenges in supply chain for raw materials used in its COVID-19 vaccine.

Oil majors Exxon Mobil Corp and Chevron Corp rose about 1.5% each, boosted by a rise in crude prices as major producers agreed on a compromise on supply.

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