Stocks fell Friday as rising COVID-19 cases raised the specter that more restrictions would be unleashed across U.S. cities and states, threatening to crimp business activity and jeopardize the tenuous economic recovery. An apparent dispute between the U.S. Treasury and Federal Reserve over whether to renew some pandemic-era emergency lending programs also weighed on risk assets.
Investors weighed these risks against a steady flow of positive news over a vaccine. Pfizer (PFE) and BioNTech (BNTX) said they plan to file for an emergency use authorization with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Friday, which would allow them to have their vaccine used in the U.S. starting in December.
In Washington, optimism over another virus-relief bill at least momentarily reignited after Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said during a press conference Thursday that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) agreed to pick back up stimulus discussions. The Dow, which had been negative for much of Thursday’s session, managed to eke out a modest gain on the day after Schumer’s comments.
Though Democratic and Republican lawmakers have remained at an impasse for months over the size and contents of another relief package, Schumer’s remarks nevertheless offered a sliver of hope that more aid might get agreed upon and advanced even ahead of the final Senate runoffs and Inauguration Day in January. Still, however, the Senate already adjourned for the Thanksgiving holiday earlier this week and will not meet again for another full session until the end of the month, narrowing the window of opportunity for new legislation to get passed.
In November, stocks largely rallied as vaccine-makers’ upbeat efficacy data gave investors more conviction that a post-COVID era was feasible for 2021. But in the very near-term, rising case counts and hospitalizations have already spurred a host of cities and states to unleash a host of new restrictions to keep the virus at bay until an inoculation becomes widely available. In the Northeast, New Hampshire imposed a mask-wearing mandate, and Rhode Island announced a two-week “pause” effective at the end of the month. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Thursday issued new guidance urging Americans not to travel for Thanksgiving, and to avoid gatherings with those outside their households.
To many analysts, these factors have increased the urgency for officials to provide more stimulus to lessen the scarring to the economy and labor market especially that may occur in the waiting time for a vaccine.
“At some point, we will need to reconcile the economic underpinnings. There’s going to be, call it two quarters plus another few months, where we are going to have to rely on the underlying economy to kind of come along with our expectations,” Jack Ablin, Cresset Capital chief investment officer, told Yahoo Finance on Thursday. “And where COVID is right now, it looks like a pretty dire situation in the near-term. And we’ll see whether policy, whether fiscal or monetary, can paper over those differences.”
New data on Thursday underscored the early labor market repercussions of the latest surge in COVID-19 cases. New jobless claims unexpectedly rose for the first time in five weeks last week, in what may well be the start of a trend this winter, economists warned.
4:01 p.m. ET: S&P 500 posts first weekly decline in three weeks as virus fears resurge
Here’s where the three major indices settled, as of 4:01 p.m. ET:
S&P 500 (^GSPC): -24.25 points (-0.68%) to 3,557.62
Dow (^DJI): -219.95 points (-0.75%) to 29,263.15
Nasdaq (^IXIC): -49.74 points (-0.42%) to 11,854.97
2:38 p.m. ET: U.S. crude oil prices settle at highest level in more than two months
U.S. West Texas intermediate crude oil prices jumped nearly 1%, or 41 cents per barrel, to close higher by $42.15, as hopes of a vaccine helped push energy prices higher and alleviate concerns over dampened travel demand.
Friday’s rise brought the commodity’s weekly gain to just over 5%, marking a third straight week of gains. Its price per barrel was the highest since September 1.
Still, crude oil prices remain lower by 30% for the year to date, and the energy sector has stayed the laggard in the S&P 500 for that time frame, even given the past several weeks’ worth of gains.
11:09 a.m. ET: Stocks extend declines, Dow drops 100+ points, or 0.4%
The S&P 500 and Dow extended declines Friday mid-morning, with the latter shedding more than 100 points, or 0.4%. Boeing, American Express and Walgreens Boots Alliance lagged in the 30-stock index.
The utilities, communication services and information technologies sectors outperformed in the S&P 500, and the Nasdaq held in positive territory as investors turned to software and tech stocks viewed as more insulated from economic impacts from the pandemic.
9:31 a.m. ET: Stocks open slightly lower
Here were the main moves in markets, as of 9:31 a.m. ET:
S&P 500 (^GSPC): -3.65 points (-0.1%) to 3,578.22
Dow (^DJI): -64.24 points (-0.22%) to 29,418.99
Nasdaq (^IXIC): -16.63 points (-0.14%) to 11,886.21
Crude (CL=F): -$0.20 (-0.48%) to $41.54 a barrel
Gold (GC=F): +$14.70 (+0.79%) to $1,876.20 per ounce
10-year Treasury (^TNX): -0.6 bps to yield 0.849%
9:17 a.m. ET: Foot Locker shares rise after 3Q sales top estimates
Shares of Foot Locker (FL) rose in early trading after the athletic-wear retailer posted third-quarter sales growth that exceeded consensus estimates.
Comparable same-store sales rose 7.7%, accelerating from last year’s 5.7% growth rate, and well above the 0.9% increase consensus analysts had been expecting, according to Bloomberg data. Adjusted earnings of $1.21 per share were nearly double the 66 cents anticipated.
Foot Locker said it will not be providing full-year guidance amid the ongoing pandemic, but CEO Richard Johnson signaled that purchasing trends have been strengthening as the fall rolls on.
“Although the back-to-school selling season kicked in later than usual due to COVID-19-related delays, momentum built as the quarter progressed, and we were pleased with our customers' continued strong engagement across our family of brands,” Johnson said in a statement.
7:18 a.m. ET Friday: Stock futures mixed after Pfizer, BioNTech say they will file for an emergency use authorization with the FDA
Here were the main moves in markets, as of 7:18 a.m. ET:
S&P 500 futures (ES=F): 3,581.75, up 1.75 point or 0.05%
Dow futures (YM=F): 29,428.00, down 15 points or 0.05%
Nasdaq futures (NQ=F): 12,014.5, up 27.25 points or 0.23%
Crude (CL=F): +$0.26 (+0.62%) to $42.00 a barrel
Gold (GC=F): +$3.10 (+0.17%) to $1,864.60 per ounce
10-year Treasury (^TNX): -1.1 bps to yield 0.8440%
6:02 p.m. ET Thursday: 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): 3,555.00, down 25 point or 0.7%
Dow futures (YM=F): 29,228.00, down 215 points or 0.73%
Nasdaq futures (NQ=F): 11,956.75, down 30.5 points or 0.25%