Stock futures opened higher Thursday evening to hold gains after a recovery rally, with an initial wave of concerns over the economic impacts of the Omicron variant at least temporarily easing.
Contracts on the S&P 500 advanced. The blue-chip index closed higher by 1.4% during the regular session, marking its biggest jump since Oct. 14 Thursday. The Dow and Nasdaq each also advanced. Volatility from earlier this week retreated, and the CBOE Volatility index (^VIX) dipped 10% to below 28. And travel stocks including airlines, hotel and lodging firms held onto earlier gains in late trading as traders bought the pullback in these virus-sensitive areas of the market.
The move higher in stocks on Thursday came as market participants digested recent headlines on the Omicron variant, including the discovery of multiple cases in the U.S. While vaccine-makers and epidemiologists have still been assessing the new variant's transmissibility and severity of infection, investors have at least temporarily eased back from peak levels of concern.
"The markets … have been pricing in, really, a worst-case scenario," Jim Smiegiel, SEI chief investment officer, told Yahoo Finance Live. "So obviously, there was a ton of uncertainty … [but] you're seeing today some signs of positive outlooks coming into play. The cases that we've seen so far in the States have been mild."
"I think the market is now switching gears a little bit and perhaps lessening the intensity on the potential for negative outcomes," he added. "The big issue still remains more about the world government's reaction to the variant and what that means from a lockdown perspective. And that's what the market is still kind of struggling with at this stage."
Others have struck an even more optimistic tone, suggesting the economic impact of the Omicron variant will ultimately prove less drastic than initially feared.
"If you look back at Delta, there really wasn't a meaningful impact in terms of actual consumption … maybe we saw a little bit of a shift away from services in the early stages of the reopen back towards goods, but overall consumption held up just fine," Garrett Melson, Natixis Investment Managers Solutions portfolio strategist, told Yahoo Finance Live on Thursday.
"And on the capex front, we still see signs that companies are saying they're going to invest in their businesses and they're doing just that," Melson added. "Lockdowns are certainly not happening here in the U.S. There's no appetite from the government and certainly no appetite from consumers."
Traders are also awaiting the U.S. Labor Department's latest monthly jobs report Friday morning. The November jobs report is expected to show another more than half a million payrolls returned last month, with the unemployment taking another step down to reach a March 2020 low of 4.5%. The report comes following a slew of other positive data points on the labor market in recent days, with weekly unemployment claims coming in lower than expected, and ADP's private payrolls report topping expectations on Wednesday.
6:31 p.m. ET Thursday: Stock futures jump ahead of jobs report
Here were the main moves in markets during the overnight session:
S&P 500 futures (ES=F): +11.5 points (+0.25%), to 4,587.25
Dow futures (YM=F): +94 points (+0.27%), to 34,716.00
Nasdaq futures (NQ=F): +34.50 points (+0.22%) to 16,023.00
NEW YORK, NEW YORK – AUGUST 10: People walk by the Wall Street Bull near the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) on August 10, 2021 in New York City. Markets were up in morning trading as investors look to a rare bipartisan effort in the Senate to pass a massive infrastructure bill that, if passed, will infuse billions into the American economy. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
Emily McCormick is a reporter for Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter