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Stocks are mixed on Wall Street as September keeps churning

1 month 6 days 46 minutes ago Wednesday, September 23 2020 Sep 23, 2020 September 23, 2020 9:29 AM September 23, 2020 in News
Source: Associated Press

New York (AP) — U.S. stock indexes are mixed in early trading Wednesday, as Wall Street’s tumultuous month continues to churn.

The S&P 500 was 0.2% higher, but trading has been erratic recently with several sudden turns of momentum, even within the same day. The Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 144 points, or 0.5%, at 27,432, as of 9:49 a.m. Eastern time, and the Nasdaq composite was down 0.1%.

This week alone, a Monday swoon brought the S&P 500 near the edge of a 10% drop from its record high set on Sept. 2. But stocks have stabilized since then, and the S&P 500 is trying for a second day of gains following its first four-day slide since stocks were selling off in February.

Nike jumped 8.8% for one of the biggest gains in the S&P 500 after it reported much stronger profit than analysts expected. Most of the stocks in the index were higher.

Johnson & Johnson rose 1.5% as it begins a huge final study to try to prove if a single dose COVID-19 vaccine can protect against the virus. A handful of other vaccines are already in final-stage study, and investors increasingly expect one to be available within the first three months of 2021. The hope is that it can help the economy get close to normal again and allow strong growth to resume.

At the center of the market’s big swings this month have been Apple, Amazon and other Big Tech stocks. They soared through the pandemic on expectations that their growth will only accelerate as the pandemic accelerates work-from-home and other trends that benefit them. But they began falling early this month amid fears that they had grown too expensive.

Several were weakening again on Wednesday, with Amazon down 1.2% and Microsoft down 0.6%. Apple was swinging between small gains and losses.

Stocks that would benefit from a return to normal were counterbalancing those declines, though. Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings rose 4%, and American Airlines Group gained 2.4%.

Part of this week’s early stumble for stocks was due to worries about European governments imposing tougher restrictions on businesses to slow the spread of the coronavirus, which hurt travel-related companies in particular. But analysts said the U.K. orders announced Tuesday weren’t as extreme as some investors had feared.

European stocks rose despite data showing the region’s economic recovery may be faltering. Business activity is slowing as weakness in the service sector is countering strength in manufacturing, according to preliminary data from a survey of purchasing managers by IHS Markit.

The survey’s composite reading was at a three-month low, though manufacturing was at a 25-month high.

Germany’s DAX returned 1.2%, France’s CAC 40 rose 1.4% and the FTSE 100 in London gained 2%.

In Asia, markets were more subdued. Japan’s Nikkei 225 slipped 0.1%, South Korea’s Kospi was virtually flat and Hong Kong’s Hang Seng ticked up by 0.1%.

Treasury yields were holding relatively steady, and the 10-year yield slipped to 0.67% from 0.68%.

Yields have remained very low as the Federal Reserve has said it expects to keep short-term rates low for years. Such support helped Wall Street halt its sell-off of nearly 34% earlier this year, along with a big stimulus effort by Congress.

But extra unemployment benefits and other aid from Congress have already expired. Some areas of the economy have seen growth slow as a result, and investors say a renewal is crucial. But partisan disagreements have kept Congress stymied. The vacancy on the Supreme Court following Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death has deepened the country’s partisan split even more.

Fed Chair Jerome Powell said on Tuesday that the economy would benefit from support by both the central bank and Congress. He is set to testify again Wednesday at a hearing for a House subcommittee on the coronavirus crisis.

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