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Small stocks up, Big Tech down as market eyes Democratic DC

9 months 2 weeks 5 days ago Wednesday, January 06 2021 Jan 6, 2021 January 06, 2021 9:44 AM January 06, 2021 in News
Source: Associated Press

NEW YORK (AP) — Stocks of smaller companies are jumping, while Big Tech slumps on Wednesday as investors jockey to find the winners and losers amid rising expectations that Democrats may take control of Washington and deliver more support for the struggling economy.

Trading across Wall Street was jumbled after Democrats won one of the two runoff elections in Georgia that will determine which party controls the Senate. The second runoff was still too early to call, and the S&P 500 was up 0.1% after earlier flipping between losses and gains. The Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 176 points, or 0.6%, at 30,568, as of 9:50 a.m. Eastern time.

But those modest moves masked big shifts happening underneath the surface. The yield on the 10-year Treasury topped 1% for the first time since March, for example. Tech stocks are also particularly in the spotlight, and the Nasdaq composite sank 0.6%.

If Democrats do ultimately sweep the runoff elections in Georgia, it would give them upcoming control of the Senate, House of Representatives and White House. That could make Washington more likely to deliver another shot of aid for an economy struggling under the worsening pandemic.

A report on Wednesday underscored the risks, as payroll processor ADP said private employers cut 123,000 more jobs last month than they added. It was much worse than economists’ expectations for job growth, and it was the weakest such report since April.

The Russell 2000 index of small-cap stocks jumped 1.9%, much more than the rest of the market. Increased stimulus could benefit smaller companies in particular because they tend to have smaller cushions to survive long-term downturns.

Stocks of companies that would benefit from increased spending from Washington on infrastructure were also helping to lead the market. Vulcan Materials, which sells asphalt and other construction materials, soared 9.7% for one of the biggest gains in the S&P 500.

Big spending plans for the economy could trigger not only stronger growth for the economy in the future but also heavier borrowing by the U.S. government and maybe even inflation. Those factors are helping to push up Treasury yields, and the yield on the 10-year Treasury rose to 1.03% in morning trading, up from 0.94% late Tuesday.

The increase in yields, along with rising hopes for a strengthening economy, helped push banks higher. Financial stocks rose 3.2% for the biggest gain among the 11 sectors that make up the S&P 500.

On the losing end was Big Tech. A Democratic controlled D.C. could mean tougher regulations are on the way for the group, which already has been facing increased scrutiny. Apple, the most valuable stock on Wall Street and most dominant force in index funds, said in a regulatory filing Tuesday that its board regularly reviews the company’s antitrust risks.

Several Big Tech stocks were falling, including a 2.3% drop for Apple and a 2.9% fall for Facebook. These are among the biggest companies on Wall Street, which gives their stock movements outsized weight on the S&P 500 and other indexes.

Democratic control of Washington could also lead to higher tax rates for businesses, which would crimp profits and add downward pressure on stocks broadly.

Analysts, though, also caution that no big changes may ultimately come from Washington given how slim the Democratic majority may be. If the party ultimately wins the second runoff for a Georgia Senate seat, they would have a 50-50 split in the Senate with Democratic Vice President-elect Kamala Harris providing a tie-breaking vote.

In Asian stock markets, shares swung up and down after Hong Kong authorities arrested dozens of pro-democracy figures, including former lawmakers for allegedly violating a national security law by participating in an unofficial primary election last year held to increase their chances of controlling the legislature.

The Hang Seng index rebounded to close 0.2% higher. Tokyo’s Nikkei 225 lost 0.4%, and the Kospi in South Korea lost 0.7%.

Stocks in Shanghai erased early losses to gain 0.6%. Investors were weighing the potential impact of an executive order from President Donald Trump banning transactions with eight Chinese apps including Alipay and WeChat Pay in an escalation of a trade war he has been waging through most of his term. The order takes effect in 45 days, when Democrat Joe Biden will be president.

In Europe, Germany’s DAX returned 1.1%, and France’s CAC 40 rose 1%. The FTSE 100 in London jumped 3.2%.

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