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Dow erases 600-point loss, closes 260 points higher

U.S. equities rebounded from steep losses on Thursday, adding to gains after posting their best session for the day after Christmas ever on Wednesday.

The S&P 500 (^GSPC) rose 0.86%, or 21.13 points, as of market close, after having been lower by as much as 2.8% at the lows of the session. The Dow (^DJI) rose 1.14%, or 260.37 points, adding to advances of 1,086 points as of Wednesday’s close. The 30-stock index had been down more than 600 points at the lows of Thursday’s session. The Nasdaq (^IXIC) rose 0.38%, or 25.14 points.

On Wednesday, the S&P 500 and the Dow posted their largest single-session point advances ever. On a percentage basis, each of the indices had their best session since March 2009, with the S&P 500 advancing 4.96%, the Dow up by 4.98% and the Nasdaq higher by 5.84%.

Wednesday’s record-breaking gains came amid surging oil prices, positive indicators of retail sales strength for the holiday season and reassurances from the White House that the jobs of both Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin were secure.

Markets will sometimes bottom and then post a massive rally in a reversal on capitulation selling. However, many analysts are skeptical that this was the case on Wednesday.

“While we’ve had relentless selling and are (were) heavily oversold, that did not look like a capitulation reversal to us,” UBS analyst Art Cashin wrote in a note. “The volume was higher but not compellingly so. Also, the breadth should have been a bit more extreme.”

Bloomberg also pointed out that in eight previous bear markets, the S&P 500 has rallied by more than 2.5% more than 120 times. And between the collapse of Lehman brothers to the bottom of the financial crisis in March 2009, the S&P gained more than 4% on 13 separate instances. In other words, the indices’ moves on Wednesday were in the company of some of the weakest times in recent stock market history, and aren’t necessarily indicative of a leap back to sustained advances.

Another reason to be skeptical that the bottom is in for U.S. stocks is that consumer attitudes in the stock market have held up despite the months long rout in equity markets, Neil Dutta of Renaissance Macroeconomics said on Thursday. While the Conference Board’s latest measure of consumer confidence declined more-than-anticipated in December, the index still posted a relatively high reading on a historical basis.

Even with the past two sessions of gains, the three major U.S. indices are still firmly in the red for the year. The S&P 500 is down 6.9%, the Dow is down 6.4% and the Nasdaq is lower by 4.7% in 2018 as of market close on Thursday.

Trade-related headlines returned to the forefront on Thursday. Trade talks between the U.S. and China are set to begin the week of January 7 in Beijing, Bloomberg reported, citing unnamed people familiar with the matter. According to the report, Chinese Ministry of Commerce spokesman Gao Feng confirmed that he and U.S. officials will sit down for talks next month but did not specify the date.

President Donald Trump and China’s President Xi Jinping agreed in early December to postpone additional tariff hikes for 90 days while the two countries continue negotiations. The Trump administration had previously planned to raise the rate on tariffs on $200 billion in Chinese imports on January 1. Trump has pushed for China to reduce its trade barriers and cease alleged theft of intellectual property.

The reported upcoming trade negotiations come amid ongoing friction between the U.S. and some of China’s biggest telecommunications companies. Reuters reported Thursday that Trump is considering an executive order to declare a national emergency that would ban U.S. companies from using equipment produced by Huawei (HUAWEI) and ZTE (0763.HK). The U.S. alleges that the companies may use the equipment to spy on Americans for the Chinese government, which both companies have previously denied.

ECONOMY: Consumer confidence fell in December

Consumer confidence slid to 128.1 in December, marking the second consecutive month of declines, according to data released Thursday from The Conference Board. Consensus estimates had been for a reading of 133.5 in December, according to Bloomberg data. Consumer confidence in November had registered at an upwardly revised 136.4.

The Conference Board’s Present Situation index, which measures consumers’ views on current business and labor market conditions, declined to 171.6 from 172.7 in November. The Expectations Index, a metric of consumers’ short-term outlook on income, business and labor market conditions, also decreased to 99.1 from an upwardly revised 112.3 in November.

“Expectations regarding job prospects and business conditions weakened, but still suggest that the economy will continue expanding at a solid pace in the short-term,” Lynn Franco, senior director of economic indicators at The Conference Board, said in a statement Thursday. “While consumers are ending 2018 on a strong note, back-to-back declines in Expectations are reflective of an increasing concern that the pace of economic growth will begin moderating in the first half of 2019.”

New jobless claims fell by 1,000 to 216,000 for the week ending December 22, according to a report Thursday from the Department of Labor. This registered in-line with consensus estimates, according to Bloomberg data. The previous week’s initial unemployment claims were upwardly revised by 3,000 to 217,000. Continuing claims for the week ending December 15 fell to 1.701 million from an upwardly revised 1.705 million for the week prior.

The Census Bureau will not release data for New Home Sales on Thursday amid an ongoing partial government shutdown.

STOCKS: Foxconn said to launch iPhone production in India

JPMorgan Chase (JPM) will pay more than $135 million in order to settle claims of improperly handling transactions involving shares of foreign companies, according to a Securities and Exchange Commission statement Wednesday. The SEC said that JPMorgan improperly provided American Depositary Receipts, or U.S. securities representing shares of foreign companies, to brokers and their clients who did not have the corresponding foreign shares. With the settlement, JPMorgan agreed to pay back ill-gotten gains and additional penalties without admitted or denying the SEC’s findings. Shares of JP Morgan reversed early losses and rose 1.13% to $97.04 each as of market close Thursday.

Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York, U.S., December 26, 2018. REUTERS/Jeenah Moon

Loop Capital analyst Alan Gould reiterated a Buy recommendation for shares of CBS (CBS) and said the stock has the “most favorable risk/reward of media companies” in his coverage. He added that uncertainty around a new CEO for the company, discussions over NFL rights and a potential merger with Viacom have driven share prices down to an attractive level. However, he reduced his price target to $59 from $68 to reflect volatility in the stock. Shares of CBS were little changed as of market close.

Foxconn (2354.TW) may begin assembling top-end Apple (AAPL) iPhones in India as early as 2019, according to a report from Reuters citing a source familiar with the matter. The Taiwanese electronics manufacturer is said to be producing Apple’s more expensive models, including the iPhone X series, in the country, marking Foxconn’s first iPhone production operations in India. Shares of Apple edged down 0.65% to $156.15 each as of market close. Shares of Foxconn rose 0.5% to $60.30 on the Taiwan Stock Exchange.

Emily McCormick is a reporter for Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter: @emily_mcck

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