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Dow on track for small weekly loss as investors focus on stimulus prospects

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Futures pointed to a higher start for U.S. stocks Friday, but major benchmarks remained on track for small weekly declines as investors tracked long-running talks for another round of coronavirus aid.

What are major benchmarks doing?

Futures on the Dow Jones Industrial Average

rose 74 points, or 0.3%, to 28,342, while S&P 500 futures

gained 8.05 points, or 0.2%, to trade at 3,457.25. Nasdaq-100 futures

were up 19.50 points higher, up 0.2%, at 11,669.25.

The Dow

on Thursday rose 152.84 points, or 0.5%, to close at 28,363.66, while the S&P 500

gained 17.93 points, or 0.5%, to finish at 3,453.49. The Nasdaq Composite

ended at 11,506.01, up 21.31 points, or 0.2%. Through Thursday, the S&P 500 and Dow were each down 0.9% for the week, while the Nasdaq was off 1.4%.

What’s driving the market?
Investors continue to focus on talks between House Democrats and the Trump administration on a new round of relief spending. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., on Thursday said negotiations with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin were “almost there” in terms of resolving some of the thornier areas of disagreement, but it still appeared doubtful that Senate Republicans would back a large spending plan of around $2 trillion.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., on Thursday refused to commit to a pre-election vote on an aid package.

“What is clear…is that even if an agreement is reached in the next day or two, it could take a while for the bill to be drafted and then voted on — something that Pelosi herself has indicated — so it’s looking less and less likely that a new stimulus package will be passed before the election,” said Raffi Boyadjian, senior investment analyst at XM, in a note.

Market participants, however, “appear unfazed by the prospect of a delay and have been steadily pricing in such a scenario,” he said. “As long as the two sides keep talking and the size of the package stays close to $2 trillion, risk assets should remain supported.”

A second and final debate between Democratic challenger Joe Biden and President Donald Trump on Thursday night appeared to have little effect on the markets. Biden continues to lead Trump in the polls, but has seen his advantage narrow somewhat.

Read: Trump, Biden attack each other over virus, stock market and economy in final debate

“The market’s verdict on the U.S. debate is that it doesn’t alter the outlook significantly and, as such, doesn’t justify a collapse in risk sentiment or anything more serious,” said Kit Juckes, macro strategist at Société Générale, in a note.

Positive news on the COVID-19 treatment front might also provide some support. The Food and Drug Administration on Thursday approved Gilead Sciences Inc.’s

Veklury for patients who had been hospitalized with COVID-19. the drug, until now called remdesivir, is the first COVID-19 therapy to receive full FDA approval during the pandemic. Gilead shares were up 4.6% in premarket trade.

The economic calendar is light, featuring the Markit purchasing managers index readings for the manufacturing and services sectors at 9:45 a.m. Eastern.

Which companies are in focus?

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