The S&P 500 and Dow reversed earlier losses to push into slightly positive territory, as investors weighed rising COVID-19 cases in the U.S. and increased restrictions against hopes for an effective vaccine.
For the past few days, the bad outweighed the good. On Wednesday, the Dow posted its biggest loss in three weeks, dropping nearly 350 points, or 1.2%, amid more signs of deterioration in the battle to keep COVID-19 cases at bay. New York City, home to the largest public school system in the country, is set to suspend in-person schooling starting Thursday, as the rate of infections in the city hit 3%. And the U.S. Centers for Disease Prevention and Control (CDC) released new guidance on Thursday urging Americans not to travel for the Thanksgiving holidays.
Average daily cases in the U.S. have held above 150,000 over the past seven days, for a level worse than even the initial virus surge in April. And on Wednesday, total virus-related deaths in the U.S. crossed the grim milestone of 250,000.
Positive news on the vaccine front did little to assuage investors. Pfizer (PFE) said its final clinical trial data showed its vaccine candidate was 95% effective in preventing COVID-19, and that the company intends to file for emergency use authorization with the Food and Drug Administration within days. And on Thursday, The Lancet medical journal published data showing that AstraZeneca’s (AZN) COVID-19 vaccine candidate produced an immune response in the elderly, who are at higher risk of complications from the virus.
Still, even with approval, distribution of a vaccine likely won’t occur en masse for months, meaning social distancing and restrictions will remain the primary tools for combatting transmission through the latest spike in cases. The worsening pandemic, coupled with uncertainty over final results of the Senate elections and size and contents of another round of fiscal stimulus, has created a host of near-term risks.
“The market has really been in a celebratory mode since Election Day and rode through it again last week. I think the idea now is people are beginning to consider taking some profits ahead of expectations that taxes related to capital gains could rise in 2021. I also think there’s the consideration of the transition in COVID to post-COVID,” John Stoltzfus, chief investment strategist for Oppenheimer, told Yahoo Finance. “Even with the resurgence, all the vaccine news tells us [is] there is a post-COVID ahead.”
4:03 p.m. ET: Dow ekes out a gain of 44 points, or 0.2%, for first rise in three sessions as investors weigh new virus restrictions
Here were the main moves in markets as of 4:03 p.m. ET:
S&P 500 (^GSPC): +14.08 (+0.39%) to 3,581.87
Dow (^DJI): +44.68 (+0.15%) to 29,483.10
Nasdaq (^IXIC): +103.11 (+0.87%) to 11,904.71
Crude (CL=F): +$0.09 (+0.22%) to $41.91 a barrel
Gold (GC=F): -$8.70 (-0.46%) to $1,865.20 per ounce
10-year Treasury (^TNX): -2.8 bps to yield 0.8540%
3:34 p.m. ET: Dow, S&P 500 turn positive after Schumer says McConnell agreed to restart stimulus talks
The Dow and S&P 500 shook off earlier declines to push into positive territory Thursday afternoon, after Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell agreed to re-start negotiations for a virus-relief package, according to CNBC. Democratic and Republican lawmakers have remained at a stalemate over the size and contents of a COVID-19 stimulus bill for months.
“Last night, they’ve agreed to sit down and the staffs are going to sit down today or tomorrow to try to begin to see if we can get a real good COVID relief bill,” Schumer said during a press conference in New York, according to CNBC report. “So there’s been a little bit of a breakthrough in that McConnell’s folks are finally sitting down and talking to us.”
1:00 p.m. ET: S&P 500, Dow fall while Nasdaq holds higher as tech stocks rise
The three major indices were mixed Thursday afternoon as investors fled back to the relative safety of tech and software stocks, which generally have been more insulated from fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic. The Nasdaq advanced 0.4% to head toward its first rise in three sessions.
The S&P 500 dropped 0.2% around 1 p.m. ET, with the information technology, energy and communication services sectors leading the advance. Health-care stocks underperformed.
Walgreens Boots Alliance, Amgen and UnitedHealth Group led to the downside in the Dow. The index as a whole dropped more than 100 points, or about 0.4%, Thursday afternoon.
12:43 p.m. ET: Tesla shares jump to a fresh record high as optimism over EV demand, S&P 500 inclusion buoys stock
Shares of Tesla (TSLA) surged to a record high on Thursday, climbing as much as 4.5% to $508.61 amid a broad-based rally among new energy vehicle companies. Shares are tracking toward a third straight day of gains, after S&P Dow Jones Indices said late Monday that the mega-cap stock will be included in the S&P 500 in December.
Companies including Nikola (NKLA) and Nio (NIO) also surged intraday, as prospects for a future dominated by new-energy vehicles overtook markets. Reuters reported on Wednesday that General Motors’ (GM) CEO Mary Barra will say during a conference later Thursday that the company plans to spend more than its previously announced $20 billion on electric vehicles by 2025.
10:00 a.m. ET: Existing home sales unexpectedly rise in October, hitting highest level since 2005 as housing market activity extends recovery
Sales of previously owned homes unexpectedly increased in October from September, rising by 4.3% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 6.85 million, according to the National Association of Realtors. This marked the highest level since late 2005, and represented a fifth consecutive month of gains.
The median existing-home price jumped 16% over last year to $313,000. Housing inventory dropped to 1.42 million for a record-low 2.5 month supply at the current rate of purchases. And in a testament to the ongoing demand for homes during stay-in-place orders and amid low rates, 72% of homes sold in October were on the market for less than one month.
9:31 a.m. ET: Stocks open lower as virus restrictions increase, jobless claims miss estimates
Here were the main moves in markets, as of 9:31 a.m. ET:
S&P 500 (^GSPC): -13.51 points (-0.38%) to 3,554.28
Dow (^DJI): -131.22 points (-0.45%) to 29,307.2
Nasdaq (^IXIC): -14.05 points (-0.12%) to 11,788.20
Crude (CL=F): -$0.16 (-0.38%) to $41.66 a barrel
Gold (GC=F): -$17.30 (-0.92%) to $1,856.60 per ounce
10-year Treasury (^TNX): -2.8 bps to yield 0.854%
8:30 a.m. ET: Jobless claims unexpectedly rose last week for the first time in five weeks
The number of Americans filing first-time unemployment benefits unexpectedly jumped for the first time since early October last week, as rising coronaviruses cases in the U.S. weigh on the pace of recovery in the labor market.
New claims came in at 742,000 for the week ended Nov. 14, jumping from the previous week’s upwardly revised 711,000. Continuing jobless claims fell to the lowest level since mid-March, with these coming in at a better-than-expected 6.372 million. However, this also coincided with a rise in the number of Americans filing for benefits in longer-term unemployment programs.
7:20 a.m. ET: Macy’s stems sales decline in 3Q as in-store sales begin to recover
Macy’s (M) posted a shallower sales decline than expected in the third quarter and narrowed its losses, as in-store shopping and digital sales each improved during the quarter.
Owned plus licensed comparable same store sales fell 20.2% over last year, or better than the about 23% drop expected, according to Bloomberg consensus data. This also improved sequentially from the company’s nearly 35% sales slump in the second quarter. Its adjusted loss per share of 19 cents was better than the 79-cent loss per share anticipated.
“Customers shopped our brands across all channels in the third quarter and responded well to our expanded fulfillment offerings, such as curbside, store pickup and same-day delivery,” CEO Jeff Gennette said in a statement. “Our digital business delivered strong growth and sales in our stores continued to recover.”
He added that customers have shifted their spending to casual apparel and other categories conducive to spending more time at home. Home furnishings and jewelry and fragrances grew sales by double-digit percentages over last year.
7:14 a.m. ET Thursday: Stock futures hold lower, pointing to third straight day of selling
Here were the main moves in markets, as of 7:14 a.m. ET:
S&P 500 futures (ES=F): 3,561.25, down 3.75 point or 0.11%
Dow futures (YM=F): 29,335.00, down 56 points or 0.19%
Nasdaq futures (NQ=F): 11,867.25, down 29.75 points or 0.25%
Crude (CL=F): -$0.41 (-0.98%) to $41.41 a barrel
Gold (GC=F): -$13.30 (-0.71%) to $1,860.60 per ounce
10-year Treasury (^TNX): -2.3 bps to yield 0.859%
6:02 p.m. ET Wednesday: Stock futures open lower
Here were the main moves in markets, as of 6:02 p.m. ET Tuesday evening:
S&P 500 futures (ES=F): 3,564.00, down 1 point or 0.03%
Dow futures (YM=F): 29,399.00, up 8 points or 0.03%
Nasdaq futures (NQ=F): 11,883.25, down 13.75 points or 0.12%