Stocks surrendered early gains to turn lower Wednesday afternoon, thwarting investors trying to generate momentum one day after the S&P 500 and Nasdaq snapped a four-day losing streak.
What are major benchmarks doing?
The Dow Jones Industrial Average
fell 67 points, or 0.3%, to 27,222, while the S&P 500
lost 19 points, or 0.6%, to reach around 3,295. The Nasdaq Composite Index
shed 113 points, or 1.1%, and was near 10,849.
On Tuesday, the Dow rose 140.48 points, or 0.5%, to end at 27,288.18, while the S&P 500 finished 34.51 points higher, up 1.1%, at 3,315.57. The Nasdaq gained 184.84 points, or 1.71, to close at 10,963.64.
What’s driving the market?
Stocks began the week by extending a slide, taking the S&P 500 within a whisker of a correction—defined as a 10% pullback from a recent peak—during Monday’s session, when stocks ended off session lows.
Equities then appeared to find their footing in Tuesday’s session, rallying in afternoon trade. Technology stocks, which have suffered a sharp pullback in September as investors dumped 2020’s highest flyers, led the bounce back for equities on Tuesday.
Some investors on Wednesday drew optimism from vaccine developments, after Johnson & Johnson
announced the start of a 60,000-person clinical trial of its single-dose COVID-19 vaccine on three continents, making the drugmaker the fourth experimental vaccine candidate to enter final-stage testing in the U.S.
Skeptics said the brief turnaround for stocks was unconvincing, particularly given their still elevated values against a backdrop of tremendous uncertainties.
“It’s not a surprise it’s becoming a little more volatile heading into the election,” Esty Dwek, head of global macro strategy at Natixis Investment Management, told MarketWatch. “But right now it’s kind of more about Congress.”
“After Justice Bader Ginsberg’s passing, the probability of another fiscal package before the election has become quite small.”
The U.S. presidential election remains only a weeks away. The “tight race, combined with worries about fraud from postal voting, has sparked talk that whoever loses will contest the result, leading to a potentially prolonged period of uncertainty,” said Raffi Boyadjian, senior investment analyst at XM, in a note.
Simmering tensions between the U.S. and China also remain a potential source of weakness for stocks, he said, noting that Trump used his address at the annual U.N. General Assembly to blame China for “unleashing” the coronavirus onto the world, while Beijing looks increasingly likely to block the takeover of TikTok by U.S. companies, potentially heightening the standoff.
Volatility will be “on a steady upward march” for the next several months, said Peter Andersen, founder of Andersen Capital Management, in an interview. Investors are faced with a litany of unknowables over the coming months, he noted: the outcome of the November election and the likely protest against it, the timing and rollout of a vaccine, the tone of any civil unrest, and more.
Andersen suggests putting aside the binary questions that many analysts follow—value versus growth, reopening versus lockdown, richly valued versus underpriced—and building a portfolio that doesn’t try to time the market. “I tell investors to focus on stocks that almost have an organic demand for products and services that will remain strong no matter what the election results, the vaccine hysteria, and the national polarization.”
Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell on Tuesday told lawmakers that further fiscal stimulus would likely be needed to prevent a slowing of the economy in coming months and reiterated the central bank stood ready to support the economy for as long as necessary.
On Wednesday, Fed Vice Chairman Richard Clarida said policy makers won’t contemplate raising interest rates until inflation is clearly back at 2%—and possibly even beyond.
A September composite purchasing managers index flash reading from IHS slipped to 54.4 in September from 54.6 in the prior month, signaling a slower pace of growth. The flash services purchasing managers index inched down to 54.6 from 55 in August. The flash manufacturing index rose to 53.5 in September from 53.1 in the prior month, still marking a 20-month high.
Which companies are in focus?
Shares of Dow component Nike Inc..
jumped more than 10% after the athletic apparel company delivered results late Tuesday that easily beat Wall Street forecasts.
Stitch Fix Inc.
shares slid 16% after the provider of clothing and accessories subscriptions reported a bigger quarterly loss than expected.
Shares of Johnson & Johnson
were up 1.3%, after the health care and pharmaceutical company said it had launched a global Phase 3 trial of its COVID-19 vaccine candidate.
Shares of Tesla Inc.
fell about 9% after the electric-auto maker unveiled innovations and increased efficiencies that appeared to disappoint investors late Tuesday at its “Battery Day” event.
shares were more than 6.8% lower despite a pair of price-target increases.
General Mills Inc.
shares dipped 0.6% even after the cereal maker beat on earnings and hiked its dividend.
What are other markets doing?
The yield on the 10-year Treasury note
was up two basis points at 0.68%. Bond prices move inversely to yields.
The ICE U.S. Dollar Index
was up 0.2% at 94.20.
slid 2% to $1,870.10 an ounce as rising stocks lured investors. Oil futures
were up 1.1% to $40.22 per barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange as investors awaited a report on storage.
The pan-European Stoxx Europe 600 Index
rose 0.6% and the U.K.’s benchmark
gained 1.2%. In Asia, Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index
rose 1% and the Shanghai Composite Index
closed 0.2% higher. Japan’s Nikkei
slipped less than 0.1%.
William Watts contributed reporting.