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Markets rise as President Joe Biden takes office: How the headlines can affect your money

If approved by the Senate, Janet Yellen will be the first woman to lead the Treasury Department.

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U.S. President Joe Biden delivers his speech after he was sworn in as the 46th President of the United States on the West Front of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, January 20, 2021.
Kevin Lamarque | Reuters

Markets rise as President Joseph R. Biden takes office, confirmation hearings begin for Janet Yellen, and applications to refinance mortgages dip slightly. Here's how the headlines could affect your money.

Markets rally ahead of inauguration

Markets rallied Tuesday after last week's losing streak: The Dow rose about 0.4%,while the Nasdaq was up 1.5%, and the S&P 500, 0.8%.

All three indexes continued their upward trajectory Wednesday in the lead up to and during Biden's inauguration. The S&P and Nasdaq hit new record highs.

Traders will be closely watching the new president's first moves. Biden has already announced a slew of executive orders that he will sign upon taking office later today. Those include mask requirements for federal workers and extending the forbearance on federal student loans until at least September 30.

Senate begins confirmation hearings

The Senate began confirmation hearings Tuesday for several of Biden's Cabinet nominees, including Treasury Secretary-designate Janet Yellen.

During her hearing, Yellen discussed everything from tax policy to trade relations with China, but she stressed the importance of prioritizing the federal government's fiscal response to the pandemic before tackling the rest of Biden's economic agenda.

Sen. Ron Wyden (R-Wis.), the Finance Committee's ranking member, said the full Senate could vote on Yellen's confirmation as early as Thursday. If confirmed, she will be the first woman to head the Treasury Department.

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Demand to refinance mortgages softens

The average contract interest rate for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages increased to about 2.92% last week from 2.88%, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association. 

As a result, applications to refinance fell 5% last week from the week before. Even so, applications are still up 87% from a year ago. 

With rates off record lows, it's a good reminder to shop around when you're hunting for a new mortgage or a refinancing deal, and run the numbers on how a slightly higher rate could affect your homebuying budget.

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Words you've heard: Stock buybacks

A stock buyback is when a company uses profits to buy shares of its own stock on the open market. They reduce the total number of outstanding shares, so each share an investor owns represents a bigger piece of the overall company.

Shares of Netflix made their largest price jump in more than four years Wednesday after the company announced that it had surpassed 200 million subscribers for the first time in its history, sparking rumors that it would consider buying back its own stock.

Although the daily news can have an impact on your wallet, remember to take a long-term outlook when it comes to decisions on spending, saving, and investing.

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