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Wall Street tries again to snap losing streak, pushes higher

7 months 1 week 4 days ago Tuesday, December 15 2020 Dec 15, 2020 December 15, 2020 10:38 AM December 15, 2020 in News
Source: Associated Press

NEW YORK (AP) — Stocks on Wall Street are making another run at breaking their losing streak, climbing on Tuesday as negotiations drag on in Washington on whether to deliver more support for the economy.

The S&P 500 was 0.5% higher in midday trading after a bipartisan group of lawmakers unveiled a detailed COVID-19 relief proposal and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin spoke late Monday about the urgency of approving aid for the struggling economy. A day earlier, the S&P 500 jumped to a morning gain of 0.9% amid hopes for progress in Washington, only to fade in the afternoon and lock in its fourth straight loss.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 159 points, or 0.5%, at 30,020, as of 11:25 a.m. Eastern time, and the Nasdaq composite was 0.4% higher.

Also helping to steady the market were hopes for an improving economy next year as COVID-19 vaccines become widely distributed. A vaccine candidate developed by Moderna and the National Institutes of Health may be on the cusp of regulatory approval after the Food and Drug Administration said its preliminary analysis confirmed its safety and effectiveness. It would join the nation’s first vaccine, which just began rolling out. Hundreds of hospital and health care facilities will get their first shipments Tuesday of the vaccine developed by Pfizer and BioNTech.

Another big gain for Apple also helped to lift Wall Street. It’s the most influential stock in the S&P 500 because of its massive size, and it rose 3.3% after a report from Japan’s Nikkei said it may produce more iPhones in the first half of 2021 than analysts had been expecting.

Much of the market’s focus remains on Washington, though, where a deep partisan divide has kept Congress from delivering another dose of financial support for the economy. Economists and investors have been clamoring for more aid for jobless workers and hard-hit industries, among other things, particularly as surging coronavirus counts pummel the economy again.

The number of U.S. workers applying for unemployment benefits is back on the rise, as governments around the country and world bring back varying degrees of restrictions on businesses. Even without lockdown orders, the fear is that the rising number of deaths will keep customers away from businesses.

Another round of financial support from Washington could help carry the economy through what’s expected to be a bleak winter, before vaccines help things get closer to normal next year.

Stocks of companies already hit hardest by the pandemic were lagging the market sharply on Tuesday. Norwegian Cruise Line fell 3%, cruise-operator Royal Caribbean dropped 3.5% and American Airlines Group slipped 0.5%.

Worries about the worsening pandemic and stop-and-start talks in Washington about support for the economy have made the market shaky in recent weeks. It earlier surged through November on hopes for coming COVID-19 vaccines and relief that the U.S. presidential election ended with a clear winner, Democrat Joe Biden. The electoral college confirmed Biden’s victory on Monday.

Still, the S&P 500 remains near its record set a week ago. Massive efforts by the Federal Reserve have provided another huge underpinning, and the central bank begins its last policy meeting of the year on Tuesday. It will announce its decision on Wednesday after already cutting short-term interest rates to nearly zero and indicating it will keep them there for a while even if inflation rises above its target of 2%.

In European stock markets, France’s CAC 40 rose 0.2%, and Germany’s DAX returned 1%. The FTSE 100 in London slipped 0.4%.

In Asia, Japan’s benchmark Nikkei 225 index fell 0.2% after Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga announced the suspension of a travel promotion program that has helped businesses but also is thought to have contributed to a resurgence of coronavirus outbreaks.

South Korea’s Kospi slipped 0.2%, Hong Kong’s Hang Seng lost 0.7% and stocks in Shanghai dipped 0.1%.

The yield on the 10-year Treasury rose to 0.91% from 0.88% late Monday.

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