Wall Street pares early gains to close lower

Wall Street finished lower in thin trading, after trading in positive territories for most of the day.

All three benchmark indexes fell – the Dow Jones by 0.25%, the S&P 500 by 0.30%, and tech heavy Nasdaq by 0.16%.

The US Centre for Disease Control and Prevention has banned the public from taking cruise ships, even if they are fully vaccinated.

Cruise ship stocks like Royal Caribbean Cruises and Carnival Corp dipped by more than 1%.

Total new COVID cases globally have hit a record high and on Thursday, stood at more than 1.73 million.

The US is the hardest hit country, but that hasn’t dampened its job market with jobless claims falling to 198k in December, the lowest level since 1989 and down from 206k a month earlier.

In other markets, spot iron ore was 1% higher while oil prices were flat.

Bitcoin has rallied by 1.7% to US$47,300 at 8am AEDT today, which is way below its peak of US$69k achieved in November.

ASX 200 to open lower on Friday

It will be a shortened day for the ASX on this last trading day of the year.

The benchmark ASX 200 looks set to dip slightly lower this morning, with futures markets (January contracts) pointing down by 0.03% at 8:30am AEDT.

Yesterday, the local index closed slightly higher by 0.05%, marking the sixth straight day of gains.

It’s set to finish 2021 up over 12% and December up over 3% which would be the second best month of the year, only exceeded by April.

PM Scott Morrison announced yesterday the government’s decision to narrow the definition of close contacts to household contacts, or “someone who has spent more than 4 hours with a confirmed case in a house”.

Another change made by the national cabinet was that large testing clinics can now offer PCR rapid tests for COVID-19.

4 ASX small caps to watch today

Global Lithium Resources (ASX:GL1)
The acquisition of an 80% interest in the Manna Lithium Project from Breaker Resources (ASX:BRB) has now been completed. Recent drilling at the WA project over an area of 350 metres to the south of Manna 1 has confirmed the discovery of a new zone of spodumene-rich pegmatites.

Brookside Energy (ASX:BRK)
The company said drilling operations at its second Rangers well are proceeding on schedule, safely and without incident. The Rangers Well curve successfully landed in the Sycamore Formation at the designed depth, and the intermediate casing has been set and cemented.

Weebit Nano (ASX:WBT)
The microchip specialist reported that all the company’s directors have exercised all their listed options to further increase their Weebit shareholdings. In addition, three company directors including the CEO will invest a further $301k at $2.84 per share as part of the most recent placement.

8VI Holdings (ASX:8VI)
The education tech company said its proposed plans to undertake a secondary listing on the Singapore Stock Exchange is currently being assessed. 8VI reminded investors there is no assurance the proposal will be implemented.