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Wall Street drifts as another bumpy week of trading closes

1 month 5 days 6 hours ago Friday, September 18 2020 Sep 18, 2020 September 18, 2020 9:34 AM September 18, 2020 in News
Source: Associated Press

NEW YORK (AP) — Stocks are drifting in mixed trading on Wall Street Friday, as another zig-zag week for markets closes out following their abrupt loss of momentum this month.

The S&P 500 was down 0.2% after giving up a small gain in the first few minutes of trading. It’s still on pace for a gain of 0.2% this week after a two-day slump followed up on a two-day gain.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average was down 118 points, or 0.4%, at 27,783, as of 9:54 a.m. Eastern time, and the Nasdaq composite was down 0.1%. Both drifted from small gains to losses shortly after trading began. Smaller stocks were still higher, with the Russell 2000 index of small caps up 0.3%.

Analysts warned that the day’s trading could be even bumpier than usual. Futures and options on stocks and indexes are set to expire in an event known as “quadruple witching,” which can drive swings in prices.

Stocks have already swirled this week despite the Federal Reserve’s saying it expects to keep short-term interest rates at record lows through 2023. Low rates typically turbocharge the market by encouraging investors to pay higher prices for stocks, but some investors may have been looking for the Fed to be even more aggressive.

Growth in some areas of the economy has also slowed after unemployment benefits and other aid from the federal government expired, and partisan disagreements in Congress are holding up a renewal of support. Investors say it’s essential that such aid arrives.

Rising tensions between the world’s two largest economies are also continuing to keep markets on edge. The United States said on Friday that it will ban downloads of Chinese apps WeChat and TikTok on Sunday.

President Donald Trump’s targeting of the Chinese tech industry has caused intermittent worries in the market about a possible retaliation against the U.S. industry.

Big Tech stocks already stumbled sharply this month on worries that their prices have grown too expensive following their virtuosic performance through the pandemic. Surging shares of Apple, Microsoft, Amazon and others helped carry Wall Street back to record heights, even as the pandemic walloped much of the economy, as the coronavirus accelerated work-from-home and other trends that benefit them.

But they suddenly lost momentum two weeks ago, causing the market to swing with them. Because these companies have grown so massive, their stock movements have huge sway over broad market indexes, such as the S&P 500.

On Friday, several Big Tech stocks were swinging from gains to losses. Apple was down 0.8%, and Microsoft was down 0.5%, but Facebook was up 0.5%.

Also on the long list of concerns for markets is how the pandemic progresses, whether a vaccine for COVID-19 could indeed be available in early 2021 as many investors expect and what November’s U.S. presidential election will do to the economy.

Treasury yields remain very low, showing the powerful strength of the Federal Reserve and continued expectations by bond investors for only modest economic growth and inflation. The yield on the 10-year Treasury dipped to 0.67% from 0.69% late Thursday.

Other stock markets around the world made mostly modest moves.

In Europe, the German DAX lost 0.1%, and the French CAC 40 sank 0.9%. The FTSE 100 in London fell 0.5%.

Asian markets rose. Japan’s Nikkei 225 added 0.2%, South Korea’s Kospi gained 0.3% and Hong Kong’s Hang Seng climbed 0.5%. Stocks in Shanghai rose 2.1%.

Benchmark U.S. crude oil rose 0.2% to $41.04 to per barrel. Brent crude, the international standard, dropped 0.1% to $43.24 per barrel.

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