Stocks fall for a third straight day amid stimulus uncertainty

U.S. stocks fell on Thursday, on pace for a third day of losses, as the outlook for a coronavirus stimulus deal remained uncertain.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average slid 152 points, or 0.5%, while the S&P 500 fell 0.7%. The Nasdaq Composite dropped 1.2% as shares of big technology companies slid.

Here’s what traders were watching:

  • Investors are waiting for any sign a coronavirus aid deal is still possible. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told CNBC’s “Squawk Box” that he and President Donald Trump are committed to getting a stimulus deal done and that while it will be hard to get one done before the election, they will keep trying. Mnuchin, who plans to speak with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi again Thursday, said progress has been made, specifically in reference to Democrats’ testing language for the deal. However, he said that “politics” may be getting in the way and that the Democrats still want an “all or nothing” deal.
  • Worse-than-expected jobless claims also weighed on sentiment. The Labor Department said Thursday there were 898,000 first-time filers of jobless benefits in the prior week, higher than a Dow Jones estimate of 830,000.
  • European governments are reinstituting pandemic restrictions to curb a second wave of the coronavirus. France has declared a public health state of emergency and the U.K. is nearing a second national lockdown. European stock benchmarks lost more than 2%.
  • France and Netherlands are endorsing a plan for the EU to curb the power of Big Tech, including by possibly breaking them up, according to the Financial Times. Facebook, Apple and Alphabet shares were each lower by about 2% in premarket trading following the report.
  • Third-quarter earnings are continuing to roll out. Morgan Stanley reported third quarter profit of $1.66 per share, exceeding the $1.28 estimate of analysts surveyed by Refinitiv. It generated revenue of $11.7 billion on the back of strong trading, a billion dollars more than the estimate. Shares of Morgan Stanley were up 1.5%.
  • Walgreens also posted a better-than-expected fourth-quarter profit, helped by higher sales at U.S. pharmacies. The drugstore chain said it expects profit to grow in single digits in 2021. Shares of Walgreens popped 3.6%.

“Market volatility is set to continue in the weeks ahead as investors brace for a host of uncertainties—the timing of vaccine availability (after a setback for Johnson & Johnson), the size and timing of additional US fiscal stimulus, and the election outcome,” wrote Mark Haefele, chief investment officer of global wealth management at UBS. “The uneven recovery in the US economy also adds to investor concerns as the results season kicked off this week.”

The uncertainty surrounding the aid talks led to the market’s second straight daily decline Wednesday. The Dow slid more than 160 points, or 0.6%. The S&P 500 and Nasdaq Composite pulled back by 0.7% and 0.8%, respectively. Wednesday marked the first time since September that the major indexes posted consecutive daily losses.

“This is the second earnings season in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic … and arguably this will be one of the most important earnings seasons ever,” wrote Jeff Kilburg, CEO at KKM Financial. “As investors globally try to gauge the actual damage inflicted upon the economy by Covid-19, expectations are simply that earnings will not be as bad as they were in Q2.”

“In the event we have an overall positive tone transmitted, I believe the path for U.S. equites is higher,” Kilburg added.

— CNBC’s Yun Li contributed reporting.

Subscribe to CNBC PRO for exclusive insights and analysis, and live business day programming from around the world.

Leave a Reply

Back to top