The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) rose 239 points, or 0.9%, to 26,741. The S&P 500 (SPX) clung to a 0.4% gain, up 13 points, near 3,283. The Nasdaq Composite (COMP) slumped 0.6%, or 65 points, to 10,845, after trading positive earlier in the session.
Stocks ended lower Friday, capping a losing week and month for major indexes. The Dow (DJIA) fell 4.6% last week, leaving the blue-chip gauge with a monthly loss of 6.5% — its largest since March. The S&P 500 (SPX) saw a 5.6% weekly loss, leaving it down 2.8% for the month; the Nasdaq Composite (COMP) suffered a 5.5% weekly fall, leaving it down 2.3% in October.
Last week’s declines for the Dow, S&P 500 and Nasdaq were the largest since March.
Equities lost altitude Monday afternoon, with the Nasdaq Composite flipping into negative territory a day before the U.S. election, as major stock indexes saw selling in the technology sector.
“From a trader’s standpoint, as we go further into a potential lockdown state as COVID cases rates come back, tech again is front and center,” said Anthony Denier, chief executive officer of Webull, a trading platform popular with retail investors.
He pointed to fresh calls by several investment banking analysts for investors to reduce technology exposure “because of crazy valuations,” during the pandemic as potentially contributing to the selling pressure Monday, but also said technology companies remain a favorite among retail traders.
“Stimulus, it’s going to happen,” Denier said, pointing to expectations that additional pandemic relief will eventually flow from Congress, regardless of who occupies the White House.
Still, worries of a drawn-out ballot count and an unclear election outcome this week remained the biggest risk to markets, analysts said.
A final Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll published Sunday showed Democratic challenger Joe Biden holding a 10 percentage point lead — 52% to 42% — over President Donald Trump. Biden’s lead was essentially unchanged from an 11-point lead seen in mid-October, but the survey did portray a tightening race in battleground states that could determine the outcome in the electoral college.
“There is so much uncertainty,” said Jason Ader, chief executive officer at SpringOwl Asset Management, in an interview. “The pollsters were wrong last time. Nobody knows what to believe.”
But he also pointed to European lockdowns, particularly in France, as COVID cases climb as a key worry. “That’s got everybody nervous,” he told MarketWatch. “What does the market hate more than anything? Uncertainty.”
Meanwhile, analysts said upbeat economic data appeared to provide some support to equities on Monday.
The IHS Markit final U.S. manufacturing index rose to 53.4 in October versus an initial reading of 53.3. And the Institute for Supply Management’s more closely watched manufacturing activity index climbed to a 13-month high of 59.3 last month from 55.4 in September. Readings over 50 indicate growth.
The positive data represented “good news for equity markets, particularly for cyclical sectors that have lagged technology names in recent months,” said Jim Baird, chief investment officer for Plante Moran Financial Advisors.
Outside the U.S., the Caixin manufacturing purchasing managers index, a gauge of activity in China’s manufacturing sector, rose in October — a positive sign for domestic demand that provided a lift to Asian markets early Monday. It was a similar story in Europe after upbeat PMI readings.
U.S. deaths from COVID-19 rose above 231,000 on Monday, with cases rising in 42 states, as President Donald Trump continued to criticize a key infectious-disease expert and even hinted he might fire him if he wins Tuesday’s presidential election.
Investors also face another torrent of corporate results in the week ahead, with 128 S&P 500 companies due to issue results. Earnings for the S&P are set to decline for a third straight quarter as they deal with the pandemic, but the drop appears set to be less drastic than initially feared.
After last week’s barrage of earnings, including strong results from technology heavyweights, FactSet said its model now looks for a 9.8% blended profit decline for the S&P 500 versus its initial call for a 20.5% drop before the start of earnings season.
Oil futures rebounded, with the U.S. benchmark (CL) rising 1.7% to $36.42 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange Gold rose for a second straight session, with the December contract (GCZ20) booking a 0.7% gain and settling at $1,892.50 an ounce.
The ICE U.S. Dollar Index (DXY) a measure of the currency against a basket of six major rivals, was up 0.2%.
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