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Stock Futures Pause After Dow's 30000 Milestone

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The Dow Jones Industrial Average reached a milestone of 30000. WSJ’s Jason Bellini explains how we got there.[object Object]

U.S. stock futures wavered a day after the Dow Jones Industrial Average breached 30000 points for the first time, and as investors looked ahead to a packed day of economic data.

Futures tied to the S&P 500 edged 0.2% lower Wednesday, suggesting the gauge’s two-day run of gains could come to an end. Dow futures fell back below the milestone they hit Tuesday. Nasdaq 100 futures were up 0.3%.

Stocks have been boosted in recent days by hopes that vaccines for Covid-19 could soon become widely available. The easing of concerns around the presidential transition have also boosted investor sentiment. Plus, President-elect Joe Biden’s pick of former Federal Reserve head Janet Yellen for treasury secretary has increased hopes of sizable stimulus measures.

Countering that optimism are concerns that the pandemic continues to threaten households and raises the prospect of further restrictions. As of Tuesday, there were 88,080 hospitalized patients, a record high for a 15th consecutive day, according to the Covid Tracking Project.

“We are certainly in a much more optimistic position than we were a few weeks ago,” said Seema Shah, chief strategist at Principal Global Investors, stating that investors’ major concerns, from the pandemic to a rocky political transition, have been mostly resolved.

“The market is trying to balance itself between the short-term outlooks of a winter wave of Covid cases and the more positive medium-term outlook thanks to the vaccine and the recovery that will follow. But that medium-term outlook is plagued with uncertainties,” she added.

Markets have been boosted by vaccine hopes and the easing of fears around the presidential transition.

Markets have been boosted by vaccine hopes and the easing of fears around the presidential transition.

Photo: brendan mcdermid/Reuters

In premarket trading, Gap was down 12% after reporting flat sales in the third quarter. Executives at the retailer cautioned that rising virus cases would likely weigh on store visits during the crucial holiday shopping season.

Investors await a busy slate of economic data, some of which have been brought forward due to Thursday’s thanksgiving holiday. Trading in the U.S. will be closed Thursday and conclude early on Friday.

The Labor Department is set to release its weekly jobless claims numbers at 8:30 a.m. Economists expect the data to show applications remained elevated in the week ended Nov. 21. Investors will be watching to see whether recent efforts to contain a resurgence of coronavirus cases has damaged the labor market.

Data on durable goods orders are due at the same time and are expected to show a sixth consecutive monthly rise. Economists are forecasting a similar sixth consecutive monthly rise for data on consumer spending. That release is due at 10 a.m.

Consumer spending has so far been the driving force behind the economy’s recovery, and investors will be watching for signs of how Americans’ are faring.

Minutes from the Federal Reserve’s last monetary policy meeting earlier this month are also due after markets close.

In commodity markets, Brent crude, the international benchmark for oil, rose 1.4% to $48.46 a barrel. Gold prices ticked 0.2% higher to $1,807.30 a troy ounce.

Overseas, the pan-European Stoxx Europe 600 fell 0.4%, led by auto makers and bank stocks. Asian benchmarks were mixed, with the Japanese Nikkei 225 ending the day 0.5% higher, while China’s Shanghai Composite fell 1.2%.

Write to Will Horner at William.Horner@wsj.com