US Stocks Finish Mostly Lower as Disappointing Economic Data Offsets Pandemic Relief Bill News

The major U.S. stock indexes finished mixed but mostly lower on Tuesday In another whipsaw session that saw the benchmark S&P 500 Index take a hit late in the day. Concerns over a new variant of the coronavirus and disappointing economic news ook center stage, offsetting the positive vibe from Washington’s passage of a long-awaited pandemic relief bill.

In the cash market, the S&P 500 Index settled at 3687.26, down 7.66 or -0.23%. The blue chip Dow Jones Industrial Average finished at 30015.51, down 200.94 or -0.73% and the tech-based NASDAQ Composite closed at 12807.92, up 65.40 or +0.59%.

The price action suggests investors are catching their breath before year-end after a volatile year. Fears of the coronavirus and optimism about an eventual economic recovery made for extreme volatility on Wall Street in 2020, with the S&P 500 logging daily gains or losses of 2% or more over 40 times in a year so far, the most in over a decade.

While the onset of the pandemic triggered the volatile price movement earlier in the year, investors this week are being forced to address the stimulus package and the new COVID strain. At one point earlier in the year, stocks were off by 30% before turning green. That’s a ton of volatility to digest.

Virus Developments and Economic News

The session started with the news that Congress passed a pandemic relief package worth $892 billion after months of a partisan tug-of-war, aimed at propping up an economic recovery faltering under the weight of restrictions aimed at containing a coronavirus resurgence. That resurgence continues to swell, infecting 214,000 Americans every day, prompting mandatory shutdowns and pushing hospitals to capacity.

That resurgence may have had an impact on the economy with consumer confidence unexpectedly dropping while sales of pre-owned U.S. homes posted their first decline in six months.

There are also concerns internationally that the new strain of coronavirus could derail the global economic recovery.

A fast-spreading new variant of the virus discovered in Britain has brought movement in and out of the U.K. to a halt and sent vaccine makers Pfizer Inc and Moderna Inc scrambling to ensure their drugs were effective against it.

Stocks in the News

Apple was an outlier amid a broad sell-off, gaining 3.6%. This may have helped the tech-based NASDAQ Composite avoid a loss on Tuesday. The stock jumped on news of the company’s plans to roll out an electric passenger vehicle by 2024.

Tesla Inc closed lower, extending its slide on its second day as an S&P constituent.

Peloton Interactive Inc jumped as brokers hiked their price targets on the stock on the heels of the company’s announcement that it would buy peer Precor in a deal worth $420 million.

Amgen Inc slid after disappointing results from a late-stage study of an asthma drug developed in a partnership with British drugmaker AstraZeneca Plc. The stock lost 2.78%, contributing to the weakness in the Dow.

For a look at all of today’s economic events, check out our economic calendar.

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