Benchmarks closed higher on Monday after President Joe Biden reassured Americans that despite the latest Omicron coronavirus variant scare, the country will not undergo shutdowns or lockdowns. How Did the Benchmarks Perform? The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJI) rose 236.60 points, or 0.7%, to close at 35,135.94, its biggest daily percentage gain since Oct 15. The blue-chip was led into the positive territory with 4.4% gain in shares of salesforce.com, inc. ( CRM Quick Quote CRM - Free Report) , however, Merck & Co., Inc.’s ( MRK Quick Quote MRK - Free Report) 5.4% decline capped gains for the index. Both the stocks carry a Zacks Rank #3 (Hold). You can see the complete list of today’s Zacks #1 Rank (Strong Buy) stocks here. The S&P 500 rose 60.65 points, or 1.3%, to close at 4,655.27 on Monday, its largest daily point and percentage gain since Oct 14. All the 11 major sectors of the broader index closed in the green, with the technology sector leading the way gaining 2.6%. The Nasdaq Composite Index closed at 15,782.83, after adding 291.18 points, or 1.9%, its best gain since May 14. Additionally, the large-cap Nasdaq-100 Index closed at 16,399.24, adding 373.66 points, or 2.3%, its best percentage gain since Mar 11. Moderna, Inc. ( MRNA Quick Quote MRNA - Free Report) led the rally in the Nasdaq, after the company said it is confident that it will have something on the table shortly to tackle the omicron threat. On Monday, the fear-gauge CBOE Volatility Index (VIX) decreased 19.8%, to close at 22.96. Advancing issues outnumbered declining ones on the NYSE by a 1.31-to-1 ratio. A total of 11.13 billion shares were traded yesterday, higher than the last 20-session average of 10.84 billion. Markets Up as Biden States No “Shutdowns or Lockdowns” On Monday, President Biden addressed Americans on the national television, assuring them that the new omicron variant of the coronavirus is a cause for concern but not panic. Investors were relieved to hear that the fight against this variant will not involve “shutdowns or lockdowns,” rather the Biden administration will “fight this variant with scientific and knowledgeable actions and speed, not chaos and confusion.” So far, the new variant that was first detected in South Africa has spread across a dozen of countries, that have already closed down borders. Biden is also said that vaccines likely offer protection against this COVID strain. Moderna shares also jumped on Monday after the said that it hopes for the quick development of an omicron-specific booster vaccine. Biden’s address lifted travel-related stocks slightly and tech stock emerged as winners. The virus impacted Black Friday with consumers spending $8.9 billion on online purchases as per Adobe Analytics, a slight drop from last year. However, retailers remained under the spotlight yesterday on account of Cyber Monday. Pending Home Sales Jump in October The National Association of Realtors reported on Nov 28 that pending home sales jumped 7.5% in October, surpassing the consensus estimate of 0.7% rise and much above September’s 2.4% decline. Home-buying activity has increased significantly in the last month with every region seeing an increase in the number of buyers signing contracts to purchase homes. Fast-rising rents and anticipation that mortgage rates may increase soon are pushing homebuyers to sign contracts faster and purchase a home sooner.