Retail Stocks Get a Lift, Markets Hit Record High as Biden Assumes Presidency

Major market indices reached record highs on Wednesday as Joe Biden was sworn into office as the 46th president of the United States.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average ended the day in the green more than 250 points, or up 0.8%, to hit record territory at 31,188.38. The S&P 500 also jumped 53 points, or 1.3%, to top its record closing level on Jan. 8, while the Nasdaq Composite advanced nearly 2%, or 260 points, for its highest close in the year to date. A variety of retail stocks moved in tandem with those averages, with sportswear giant Nike Inc. up 2.5%, apparel and accessories group Gap Inc. up 1.9%, shoe retailer Foot Locker Inc. up 1.3%, discount department store Ross Stores Inc. up 0.9% and big-box chain Target Corp. up 0.07%.

Shares appeared to improve on hopes that the new administration would be able to offer much-needed support to the battered American economy, which has been grappling with the COVID-19 pandemic. According to Johns Hopkins University researchers, at least 24.35 million people in the U.S. have been sickened, while more than 404,000 deaths have been recorded. The outbreak has forced state and local governments to tighten lockdown rules, which has led to the closures of hundreds of thousands of businesses and rocketing levels of unemployment.

In his inaugural speech today, Biden stressed the importance of unity at a time of crisis. “Without unity, there is no peace, only bitterness and fury. No progress, only exhausting outrage. No nation, only a state of chaos,” he said. “This is our historic moment of crisis and challenge — and unity is the path forward, and we must meet this moment as the United States of America.”

The comments come a day after Janet Yellen, the president’s nominee for the post of Treasury Secretary, called for action during her confirmation hearing before the Senate Finance Committee. “Neither [Biden] nor I propose this relief package without an appreciation for the country’s debt burden,” she said. “But right now, with interest rates at historic lows, the smartest thing we can do is act big. In the long run, I believe the benefits will far outweigh the costs, especially if we care about helping people who have been struggling for a very long time.”

As Biden kicks off his first day in office, Americans have their eyes set on another round of stimulus. Biden’s proposal, dubbed the American Rescue Plan, would provide another $1,400 in direct payments to eligible individuals; a $400 per week unemployment insurance supplement extended through September; and billions in aid for businesses, states and localities. The president also pledged a government response extending from COVID-19 testing to vaccine delivery and is expected to implement a national mask mandate on all federal properties.

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