Nov 06, 2020
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Stocks closed out their best week since April on Friday, driven by the potential for more gridlock in Washington even as the winner of the White House is still unknown.
Optimism was pumping through other areas of the market, and Treasury yields climbed after a report showed U.S. employers hired more workers last month than economists expected. They’re the latest swings in a wild week dominated by Tuesday’s election.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average dipped 66.78 points, or 0.2%, to close at 28,323.40, paring losses after dropping roughly 200 points at the open. The Nasdaq Composite ticked up less than 0.1% to end at 11,895.23, after a furious four-day rally that was helped by gains in several Big Tech companies.
The S&P 500 was virtually unchanged, dipping less than 0.1% to finish at 3509.44. It jumped 7.3% higher for the week, its best weekly gain since April. It had jumped at least 1.2% in each of the last four days, with the gains accelerating after early results indicated control of Congress may remain split between Democrats and Republicans.
That raised investors’ expectations that business-friendly policies may stick around, regardless of who wins the presidency.
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“Election Day is behind us, but corporate earnings can still improve with further stimulus, an end to COVID-19, and continued economic recovery,” Mark Haefele, chief investment officer at UBS Global Wealth Management, said in a note.
“Fiscal stimulus should be supportive even if it is less than expected, and we still expect a vaccine to become widely available by the second quarter of next year,” Haefele added.
Joe Biden leads in vote counting for Tuesday’s U.S. presidential election, but President Donald Trump and his supporters are questioning the legitimacy of the totals with key states still counting ballots.
“Markets are still betting on a clear election outcome (presumably Biden),” analyst at Mizuho Bank said in a report.
Analysts warn that an extended court battle with no clear winner could increase uncertainty, which markets dislike, and drag down stocks.
A Wall St. street sign in front of American flags.
The yield on the 10-year Treasury climbed to 0.81% from 0.78% late Thursday after the U.S. government said employers added 638,000 jobs last month. The stronger-than-expected tally suggests the economic recovery may still be intact, though it also marked another slowdown in monthly job growth.
The rally helped the 10-year Treasury yield claw back some of its recent slide. It had been above 0.90% earlier this week when expectations were rising that a Democratic sweep of Tuesday’s elections could open the door for a big stimulus effort for the economy.
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The nation has recovered about 12 million, or 55%, of the 22 million jobs wiped out in the health crisis.
“Since the economic recovery has started, just over half the jobs lost have been brought back,” Charlie Ripley, senior investment strategist at Allianz Investment Management, said in a note.
“Today’s report highlights the challenge for lawmakers as the impulse for additional fiscal stimulus hangs in the balance between the pace of the economic recovery and the downside risks of the public health crisis,” Ripley said.
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The upside of gridlock for markets is that it may prevent Democrats from approving some of the measures investors feared, such as higher tax rates and tougher antitrust policies for big technology companies. But the downside is that a still-divided Washington makes any support package for the economy coming from Congress likely to be less generous than if Democrats had swept the election.
Investors and economists say the economy needs such stimulus, particularly when the country’s new coronavirus cases are setting records once again. Europe is also facing a troubling rise in infections, and governments there have already brought back restrictions on businesses in hopes of slowing the spread.
Even if the strictest lockdowns don’t return in the United States, the worry is that the worsening pandemic will scare consumers by itself and erase profits for businesses.
“The economy itself is on a more solid footing than most people realize, but to get us back to a level where we have peak profit potential we really need to tackle the COVID-19 issue,” Scott Glasser, co-chief investment officer at ClearBridge Investments, said in a note. “We need to have success with the vaccines and that will dictate the return to more and stronger growth.”
On Thursday, the U.S. Federal Reserve said its key interest rate will be left at a record low near zero. It reaffirmed its readiness to do more to support the economy under threat from a worsening coronavirus pandemic.
In European stock markets, France’s CAC 40 fell 0.5% and Germany’s DAX lost 0.7%. The FTSE 100 in London rose 0.1%.
In Asia, Japan’s Nikkei 225 rose 0.9%, South Korea’s Kospi added 0.1% and Hong Kong’s Hang Seng gained 0.1%. Stocks in Shanghai slipped 0.2%.