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Wall Street edged has higher and the dollar has dipped to its lowest in more than two years on the penultimate trading day in a remarkable year of pandemic, recession and recovery.

All three major US stock indexes were up modestly on Wednesday as recently enacted stimulus and the ongoing rollout of COVID-19 vaccines fed optimism over economic recovery in 2021.

“2021 is going to be the beginning of it,” said Matthew Keator, managing partner in the Massachusetts-based wealth management firm Keator Group. “My anticipation will probably be more robust in the latter part of 2021.”

“Once there’s the sense of an all-clear sign, we would anticipate a robust response from the consumer,” Keator added.

For now, Keator suggests the markets are in wait-and-see mode.

“The markets are saying ‘what have you done for me lately?’ and people are going to be focusing on what’s going to happen if we see more and more restrictions due to the pandemic,” he said.

Britain approved a coronavirus vaccine developed by Oxford University and AstraZeneca in the latest development in the rapid progression, testing, approval and deployment of drugs to battle the disease.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 64.34 points, or 0.21 per cent, to 30,400.01, the S&P 500 gained 4.91 points, or 0.13 per cent, to 3,731.95 and the Nasdaq Composite added 28.54 points, or 0.22 per cent, to 12,878.76.

European stocks reversed gains to end a five-day winning streak, closing lower as investors locked in year-end gains.

The pan-European STOXX 600 index lost 0.34 per cent and MSCI’s gauge of stocks across the globe gained 0.33 per cent.

Emerging market stocks rose 1.70 per cent. MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan closed 1.81 per cent higher, while Japan’s Nikkei lost 0.45 per cent.

US Treasury yields were slightly lower in thin trading as investors bet that Republicans were unlikely to approve the passage of proposed $US2000 stimulus cheques.

Benchmark 10-year notes last rose 3/32 in price to yield 0.9264 per cent, from 0.935 per cent late on Tuesday.

The 30-year bond last rose 9/32 in price to yield 1.6623 per cent, from 1.674 per cent late on Tuesday.

The dollar fell to the lowest since April 2018 against a basket of world currencies as investors bet on more fiscal support and positioned for year-end in light trading volume.

The dollar index fell 0.34 per cent, with the euro up 0.27 per cent to $US1.228.

The Japanese yen strengthened 0.30 per cent versus the greenback at 103.28 per dollar, while Sterling was last trading at $US1.3607, up 0.79 per cent on the day.

Crude oil prices inched higher on the back of the weaker dollar and a dip in US inventories, but gains were capped by dimming hopes of a demand rebound.

US crude futures gained 0.83 per cent to settle at $48.40 per barrel and Brent settled at $US51.34 per barrel, up 0.49 per cent on the day.

Gold prices rose, countering a dip in the greenback, although global COVID-19 vaccine rollouts and increased risk appetite limited the safe-haven metal’s gains.

Spot gold added 0.6 per cent to $US1888.28 an ounce.