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Markets

Wall St retreats as Trump tests positive for COVID-19

  • News could hurt Trump's campaigning ability – analysts.
  • US jobs growth slows more than expected in September.
  • Banks track Treasury yields lower.
  • Airlines slip as stimulus deal remains elusive.
  • Indexes off: Dow 0.08%, S&P 0.51%, Nasdaq 1.53%.
Published October 3, 2020

Wall Street's main indexes fell on Friday after two straight sessions of gains as news that President Donald Trump had contracted COVID-19 stirred up political uncertainty just weeks before the election.

Still, the three main stock indexes were off session lows as the White House tried to reassure Americans that Trump was still working from isolation, while a slowdown in US job growth in September raised hopes that Washington would agree on a new fiscal stimulus.

Six of the 11 major S&P sectors were trading higher, with gains led by the materials sector. Energy stocks jumped 1.1% after hitting a six-month low earlier in the day.

"The knee-jerk reaction from the market was dramatic," said Quincy Krosby, chief market strategist at Prudential Financial, Newark in New Jersey.

"But the more information the market receives, especially if the president is recovering and where the symptoms have been mild if that's the report, it should ease pressure on the market."

Meanwhile, Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden and his wife Jill have tested negative for coronavirus.

At 12:25 p.m. ET, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was down 23.37 points, or 0.08%, at 27,793.53, the S&P 500 was down 17.26 points, or 0.51%, at 3,363.54. The Nasdaq Composite was down 173.53 points, or 1.53%, at 11,152.98.

Declines by early afternoon were concentrated in tech-heavy stocks including Facebook Inc, Alphabet Inc, Amazon.com Inc, Microsoft Corp and Apple Inc , which generally tend to outperform at a time of economic uncertainty, shedding between 1.4% and 2.7%.

An investor bought large blocks of upside call options on Thursday in companies such as Netflix and Amazon.com , trades reminiscent of outsized options purchases made in August by a large investor known as the "Nasdaq whale."

Tesla Inc slipped 4.7% even as it reported record vehicle deliveries in the third quarter.

Trading on Wall Street turned choppy last month, with the S&P 500 snapping a five-month gaining streak, as economic data indicated a long road to pre-pandemic levels and Congress deliberated over the next round of fiscal stimulus.

With a bipartisan deal eluding House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the White House, the US House of Representatives on Thursday approved a $2.2 trillion Democratic plan on fiscal aid, but objections from top Republicans are likely to doom the plan in the Senate.

American Airlines and United Airlines, which began laying off 32,000 workers after government funding program expired this week, fell 4.1% and 2.7%, respectively.

"Despite the fact that positive news has been made of ongoing talks between Mnuchin and Pelosi, we've been skeptical that a breakthrough was possible prior to the election," said Chris Zaccarelli, chief investment officer for Independent Advisor Alliance in Charlotte, North Carolina.

The CBOE volatility index, known as Wall Street's fear gauge, shot up to a one-week high.

Advancing issues outnumbered decliners 1.08-to-1 on the NYSE and 1.33-to-1 on the Nasdaq.

The S&P index recorded five new 52-week highs and one new low, while the Nasdaq recorded 48 new highs and 26 new lows.

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