Wall Street ends choppy session higher as stimulus hopes ebb and flow

October 1, 2020 6:58 AM

By Stephen Culp

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Wall Street closed higher at the end of a whipsaw session on Thursday as investors juggled hopeful and pessimistic news on the progress of stimulus talks Washington amid signs of waning momentum of economic recovery from the pandemic recession, now entering its ninth month.

All three major U.S. stock indexes closed higher, with the Nasdaq in the lead and the Dow seeing the smallest gain.

A spate of data, including jobless claims and consumer spending, suggested that the plodding economic recovery could be losing steam.

Investors now look to the Labor Department's employment report expected Friday to further gauge the economy's progress.

In negotiations for a new pandemic relief deal, the White House countered House Democrats' $2.2 trillion package with a $1.5 trillion-plus proposal.

But an imminent deal seemed elusive after U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi cautioned that Democrats and the White House remained locked in a debate over dollars an values.

"It's all about fiscal stimulus and the ball is in Congress' court," said Ryan Detrick, senior market strategist at LPL Financial in Charlotte, North Carolina. "We continue to believe they're inching closer and approaching the final inning, but the last stretch is often the hardest."

"We believe we'll have a deal before the election and both sides will claim victory," Detrick added.

The S&P 500 and the Nasdaq again got most of their support from large cap tech and tech-adjacent stocks, with Amazon.com (NASDAQ: AMZN), Microsoft Corp (NASDAQ: MSFT) and Apple Inc (NASDAQ: AAPL) providing the biggest boosts.

"With the disappointment out of Washington we see this move back to the safety trade of big tech," Detrick said. "Today is a microcosm of last six months."

The Dow Jones Industrial Average <.DJI> rose 35.2 points, or 0.13%, to 27,816.9, the S&P 500 <.SPX> gained 17.8 points, or 0.53%, to 3,380.8 and the Nasdaq Composite <.IXIC> added 159.00 points, or 1.42%, to 11,326.51.

Of the 11 major sectors in the S&P 500, seven ended the session higher. Real estate <.SPLRCR> was the largest percentage gainer, while energy companies <.SPNY> were the biggest losers, down 3.1%.

With the books closed on the third quarter, market participants await earnings season, set to get underway in about two weeks.

Analysts currently see S&P 500 earnings, in aggregate, falling by 21.4% year-on-year according to Refinitiv.

Exxon Mobil Corp (NYSE: XOM) dropped 3.5% after it signaled a bigger-than-expected third quarter loss due to falling oil prices and plunging demand.

Shares for retailer Bed Bath & Beyond Inc (NASDAQ: BBBY) soared by 25.1% after posting a surprise quarterly profit due to its booming online business.

Boeing Co (NYSE: BA) rose 1.6% and after U.S. Federal Aviation Administration Chief Steve Dickson remarked "I liked what I saw" in the previous day's 737 MAX test flight.

Advancing issues outnumbered declining ones on the NYSE by a 2.18-to-1 ratio; on Nasdaq, a 1.99-to-1 ratio favored advancers.

The S&P 500 posted 12 new 52-week highs and no new lows; the Nasdaq Composite recorded 67 new highs and 40 new lows.

Volume on U.S. exchanges was 9.55 billion shares, compared with the 10.06 billion average over the last 20 trading days.

(Reporting by Stephen Culp; Editing by David Gregorio)

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