US stocks higher with stimulus on spotlight


The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed 28.09 points lower, or 0.1%, to 28,335.57, the S&P 500 gained 11.9 points, or 0.34%, to 3,465.39 and the Nasdaq Composite added 42.28 points, or 0.37%, to 11,548.28.

NEW YORK, Oct 23 (Reuters) - The S&P 500 and Nasdaq closed modestly higher on Friday in choppy trading, with investors keeping a close eye on negotiations on a U.S. stimulus package that would ease the economic shock caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

The Dow ended lower on the day, moving within tight ranges.

Uncertainty over the timeline of the relief legislation has been weighing on Wall Street's major indexes in recent sessions, with all three indexes posting declines for the week.

U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said it still was possible to get another round of COVID-19 aid before the Nov. 3 election, but that it was up to President Donald Trump to act, including talking to reluctant Senate Republicans, if he wants it.

Trump and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin countered that Pelosi must compromise to get an aid package, saying significant differences remained between the Republican administration and Democrats.

Still the market believes a stimulus deal is going to get done: The only question would be size and timing, analysts said.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed 28.09 points lower, or 0.1%, to 28,335.57, the S&P 500 gained 11.9 points, or 0.34%, to 3,465.39 and the Nasdaq Composite added 42.28 points, or 0.37%, to 11,548.28.

The communication services sector rose 1.1%, the highest gainer among the major S&P sectors.

"This has been a stimulus-driven market for several weeks -- today is more evidence of that," said Lindsey Bell, chief investment strategist at Ally Invest, in Charlotte, North Carolina.

"The market believes we are getting a stimulus. But it wants to know when it's going to pass because it's going to take time for the money to flow out," she added.

Meanwhile, a record 50 million Americans cast ballots, eclipsing total early voting from the 2016 election.

Trump and Democratic rival Joe Biden debated on Thursday for the last time to persuade the few remaining undecided voters 11 days before their contest, but while the debate was more toned down and substantive, it hardly moved the needle.

Trump still trailed former vice president Biden in national polls after the debate, although the contest is much tighter in some battleground states where the election will likely be decided.

A sharp 10% fall in chipmaker Intel Corp after it reported a drop in margins earlier weighed on the market. Intel's results were pressured as consumers bought cheaper laptops and pandemic-stricken businesses and governments clamped down on data center spending.

The third-quarter earnings season, meanwhile, chugged along, with about 84% of the 135 S&P 500 companies that have reported so far topping quarterly profit estimates, according to Refinitiv data.

Next week's focus will be on results from Big Tech companies Apple Inc, Facebook Inc, Amazon.com Inc and Google-parent Alphabet.

Gilead Sciences Inc rose 0.2% as its antiviral drug remdesivir became the first and only drug approved for treating patients hospitalized with COVID-19 in the United States.

American Express Co fell 3.6% as it missed estimates for third-quarter profit after its customers spent less during the COVID-19 fueled economic slowdown and it set aside money for potential payment defaults.

For the week, the Dow ended down 0.9%, the S&P 500 fell 0.5% and Nasdaq declined 1.1%.

Volume on U.S exchanges was 7.79 billion shares, compared with the nearly 9 billion average for the full session over the last 20 trading days.

Reuters also reported separately:

GLOBAL MARKETS-Investors left hanging as stimulus talks drag on

Global stocks treaded water and the dollar fell on Friday as investors were left hanging, waiting to see if a long-awaited agreement on a fresh U.S. coronavirus relief package will finally be reached.

U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi said it still was possible to get another round of COVID-19 aid before the election, but that it was up to Republican President Donald Trump to act, including talking to reluctant Senate Republicans, if he wants it.

But Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin warned a deal would only be possible if Pelosi was willing to compromise.

"There's been a waiting game for a stimulus package," said Tim Ghriskey, chief investment strategist at Inverness Counsel in New York. "We keep getting teased by reports of supposed progress and then those hopes get dashed."

The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed down 28.09 points, or 0.1%, at 28,335.57, the S&P 500 settled up 11.90 points, or 0.3%, at 3,465.39. The Nasdaq Composite closed up 42.28 points, or 0.4%, at 11,548.28.

For the week, the Dow was down 0.9%, with the S&P 500 0.5% lower and the Nasdaq down 1.1%.

The biggest weight on the three indexes on Friday was a 10.6% slump in chipmaker Intel Corp after it reported a drop in margins as consumers bought cheaper laptops and pandemic-stricken businesses and governments clamped down on data center spending.

The dollar was 0.2% lower against a basket of currencies, leaving it just shy of a seven-week low and set to decline about 1% on the week, with uncertainty ahead of the Nov. 3 election weighing on the greenback.

Trump trails Democratic former vice president Joe Biden in national opinion polls, but the contest is much tighter in some battleground states where the election will likely be decided.

The final debate between Trump and Biden on Thursday offered few surprises and little new direction.

European stocks fared better, boosted by positive earnings updates from Barclays and a surge in Airbus, but nagging worries about the economic impact of surging COVID-19 cases saw markets post their biggest weekly decline in a month.

Breaking a four-day losing streak, the pan-European STOXX 600 index advanced 0.6%, with London's FTSE 100 outperforming its European peers after Barclays jumped 7% on strong results.

In the Asia-Pacific region, MSCI's broadest index of the region's shares outside Japan was flat, while Japan's Nikkei ticked up 0.2% and the CSI300 index of mainland China shed 1.3%.

The MSCI world equity index, which follows shares in nearly 50 countries, was up 0.3%, but set for its biggest weekly fall in a month.

The pound fell against the dollar and euro on Friday after the UK Purchasing Managers' Index (PMI) fell to a four-month low, but was still set to end the week up, after a new phase of intense Brexit talks restarted.

The chief negotiators for Britain and the European Union met on Friday for talks on a last-gasp trade deal to avert a tumultuous finale to the five-year Brexit crisis.

The pound was down 0.4% at $1.3031 on the day but up 0.9% on a weekly basis. The euro ticked up 0.3% against the dollar.

The Chinese yuan also held its ground against the dollar after an official at China's foreign exchange regulator said it has been more stable than expected, suggesting authorities are not too worried about its recent rise.

Oil prices fell on concerns about rising Libyan crude supply and demand concerns caused by surging coronavirus cases in the United States and Europe. Brent futures settled at $41.77 per barrel, down 69 cents, or 1.63%. U.S. crude futures settled at $39.85 per barrel, down 79 cents.

Gold eased as the dollar recouped some losses, but uncertainty going into the U.S. elections limited bullion's losses.

Spot gold XAU= fell 0.1% to $1,903.07 per ounce by 2:06 p.m. EDT (1806 GMT). U.S. gold futures settled unchanged at $1,905.20.

- Reuters

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