Stocks Take a Breather Amid Election Drama

Stocks were flat Friday as investors took a pause after a four-day rally and continued to await election results from key states. However, the three major indices posted strong weekly gains.

The S&P 500 closed out the week higher by more than 7%, as tech stocks and health-care shares advanced strongly. The advance marked the index’s best since mid-April. The Nasdaq outperformed with a weekly gain of about 9%, and the Dow increased by 6.9%.

Better-than-expected jobs data helped to curb Friday’s losses. The Labor Department reported that the economy created 638,000 jobs last month, more than the 580,000 expected, while upwardly revising September’s data to 672,000. Friday’s jobs report also saw upward revisions to the last couple months’ worth of payrolls — a sign that soaring new COVID-19 infections aren’t yet preventing new jobs from being created.

Meanwhile, shares of Square (SQ) surged to a record high on Friday after more than doubling its quarterly sales amid strong demand for its digital financial service transactions during the pandemic, and posting its first quarter in which Bitcoin revenue topped $1 billion. Shares of Uber (UBER) pared losses from the overnight session to close higher after the company reported that gross bookings for its unprofitable food delivery business outpaced those of its core ride-hailing unit for a second straight quarter And shares of Peloton (PTON) ticked down after the company warned of rising supply chain costs and extended delivery delays, offsetting strong third-quarter sales and guidance for the current quarter.

The election remained the key focal point for Wall Street. As of Friday morning and three days after Election Day, several key states including Pennsylvania, Nevada, Georgia and North Carolina had yet to be called in favor of either candidate. Both candidates still have at least one path to victory depending on the outcome of the states still outstanding.

Vice President Joe Biden had 264 electoral votes and President Donald Trump had 214, according to the Associated Press’s tally as of Friday afternoon. Candidates require 270 electoral votes to be named the winner of the election.

  • States called for Trump: Ky., W. Va., S.C., Ala., Miss., Tenn., Okla., Ark., Ind., N.D., S.D., Wyo., La., Neb. (4 of 5 electoral votes), Kan., Mo., Idaho, Utah, Ohio, Iowa, Mont., Fla., Texas
  • States called for Biden: Vt., Va., Conn., Del., Ill., Md., Mass., N.J., R.I., N.Y., N.M., D.C., Colo., N.H., Calif., Ore., Wash., Hawaii, Minn., Ariz., Maine (3 of 4 electoral votes), Wis., Mich.

A win for Biden has been viewed as increasingly likely, given the candidate would need to capture just one more of the outstanding battleground states to take the White House. He said in a press conference Thursday afternoon that he had “no doubt” that when the counting is completed, he and Senator Kamala Harris “will be declared the winners.”

Trump, however, doubled down on his calls to “stop the count,” after his campaign sued in several states to challenge the ballot counting process. A judge in Michigan denied Trump’s effort to suspend the voting tabulation process in that state on Thursday.

Despite some of the uncertainty still surrounding the election, stocks rallied strongly again in the immediate aftermath of Election Day. According to a number of analysts, traders ascribed more importance to the fact that a divided government was set to be the most likely outcome of the elections, in which no single party would control each of the White House, Senate and House of Representatives. Under that scenario, major policy changes would be unlikely to get advanced.

“This machine that is the market seems to have reacted fairly well to the situation that we’re currently in, and that seems to be this perception that we’ll have a divided Washington, which will mean probably no to low regulatory issues for the Big Tech firms, [and] the corporate tax issue will perhaps fall to the wayside,” Sylvia Jablonski, Direxion Managing Director, told Yahoo Finance.

“And perhaps there’s fiscal stimulus that comes in. Whether it’s a smaller number than we hoped for, it’ll probably still come,” she added.

4:03 p.m. ET: S&P 500 posts best week since April as post-election rally powers tech, health-care stocks higher

Here’s where the markets settled at the end of regular trading on Friday.

  • S&P 500 (^GSPC): -0.98 points (-0.03%) to 3,509.47
  • Dow (^DJI): -66.78 points (-0.24%) to 28,323.40
  • Nasdaq (^IXIC): +4.3 points (+0.4%) to 11,895.23

12:58 p.m. ET: Stocks hold lower as session rolls on; election outcome hangs in balance as Biden pulls ahead in key states

The three major indices held lower Friday afternoon, pausing their rally from the past four days.

The health-care and information technology sectors outperformed in the S&P 500, while energy and financials lagged. A more than 2% jump in shares of Dow component Johnson & Johnson was offset by declines across most of the other components, as shares of American Express and UnitedHealth Group led the drop.

Here were the main moves in markets, as of 12:58 p.m. ET:

  • S&P 500 (^GSPC): -2.4 points (-0.07%) to 3,508.05
  • Dow (^DJI): -66.86 points (-0.24%) to 28,323.32
  • Nasdaq (^IXIC): -13.36 points (-0.11%) to 11,877.87
  • Crude (CL=F): -$1.55 (-4.00%) to $37.24 a barrel
  • Gold (GC=F): +$5.80 (+0.3%) to $1,952.60 per ounce
  • 10-year Treasury (^TNX): +4.4 bps to yield 0.822%

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10:20 a.m. ET: Here’s what economists are saying about the October jobs report

Many economists underscored the unexpected strength of the October jobs report, with private payroll growth actually accelerating from September. A drop in government employment, largely due to a drop in temporary 2020 Census worker positions, weighed on the headline increase in non-farm payrolls. Still, increasing new COVID-19 cases in the U.S. present a potential downside risk to the labor market heading into the winter months.

Here’s what some economists had to say about the October payrolls report, based on notes and emails sent to Yahoo Finance.

  • “Overall it is a good outcome reaffirming the economy’s strong momentum heading into 4Q. However, we have to remember that there are still 10.1mn fewer people in work than February. Moreover, with daily COVID cases rising above 100k yesterday there is a real threat that what is happening in Europe right now soon heads this side of the Atlantic … Should bars and restaurants be forced to close again those improvements seen in leisure/hospitality employment will swiftly reverse.” – James Knightley, chief international economist for ING
  • “Much of the strength in recent months has likely been due to CARES Act spending, which is now fading. The ongoing surge in COVID cases also cautions against extrapolating from the strength.” – Jim O’Sullivan, chief U.S. macro strategist for TD Securities
  • “We expect the labor market recovery to continue over the remainder of this year, but the decline in unemployment will be very gradual. The lagged effects of fiscal support provided through the CARES act are fading at a time when COVID cases are surging. Without additional support, the resurgence of the pandemic will deal yet another blow to businesses in high-touch service sectors, which are already struggling to recover from the first shock. Some of these firms may never recover, leaving a large number of people out of a job for an extended period.” – Robard Williams, Moody’s Investor Services senior vice president
  • “We expect the goods sector and retailing to continue strengthening, but the outlook for leisure and hospitality is now deteriorating rapidly as COVID infections and hospitalizations soar … If recent trends in the Homebase numbers continue, it would be reasonable to expect November payrolls to fall outright.” – Ian Shepherdson, chief economist for Pantheon Macroeconomics

9:37 a.m. ET: Stocks fall after four-day rally; Election results in focus

Here were the main moves in markets, as of 9:37 a.m. ET:

  • S&P 500 (^GSPC): -15.25 points (0.43%) to 3,495.20
  • Dow (^DJI): -114.89 points (-0.4%) to 28,275.29
  • Nasdaq (^IXIC): -89.02 points (-0.75%) to 11,803.67
  • Crude (CL=F): -$0.76 (-1.96%) to $38.03 a barrel
  • Gold (GC=F): +$7.60 (+0.39%) to $1,954.40 per ounce
  • 10-year Treasury (^TNX): +4.9 bps to yield 0.827%

9:25 a.m. ET: Biden overtakes Trump in Georgia, Pennsylvania with vote counting still under way: AP

Biden has overtaken Trump in the battleground states of Georgia and Pennsylvania based on tabulations so far in these states, according to the Associated Press. Biden would capture enough electoral votes to win the presidency if he were to be declared the winner of either of these states.

Both races, however, are still too early to call given that votes are still being counted. And Biden’s edge remains razor thin in both states: Biden’s lead in Pennsylvania is by just under 6,000 votes, and by just over 1,000 votes in Georgia.

Trump won both Georgia and Pennsylvania during the 2016 presidential election, and he prematurely and falsely declared victory in the latter earlier this week.

8:30 a.m. ET: Jobs data beat expectations; unemployment tumbles

The U.S. labor market continues to show resilience, as October nonfarm payrolls rise by a better-than-expected 638,000 during the month. Even more importantly, the unemployment rate tumbled to 6.9%, an encouraging sign that the economy continues to recover even as new COVID-19 infections soar to new heights.

Futures are pointing to a softer open after a breathtaking rally this week, but the downside is likely to be contained by the stronger jobs data.

7:20 a.m. ET Friday: Stocks point to a lower open after four straight days of gains

Here were the main moves in markets, as of 7:20 a.m. ET Friday:

  • S&P 500 futures (ES=F): 3,484.5, down 20.25 points or 0.58%
  • Dow futures (YM=F): 28,179.00, down 118 points or 0.42%
  • Nasdaq futures (NQ=F): 11,983.00, down 93.5 points or 0.77%
  • Crude (CL=F): -$1.18 (-3.04%) to $37.61 a barrel
  • Gold (GC=F): +$9.40 (+0.48%) to $1,956.20 per ounce
  • 10-year Treasury (^TNX): -0.3 bps to yield 0.775%

6:19 p.m. ET Thursday: Stock futures flat after rally

Here were the main moves in markets, as of 6:19 p.m. ET Wednesday

  • S&P 500 futures (ES=F): 3,506.00, up 1.25 points or 0.04%
  • Dow futures (YM=F): 28,308.00, up 11 points or 0.04%
  • Nasdaq futures (NQ=F): 12,071.5, down 5 points or 0.04%

By: Emily McCormick

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The outcome of the 2020 election between Joe Biden and Donald Trump will likely have a major impact on the equity market. Although the economy has historically performed better under a Democratic president, that doesn’t always necessarily reflect on market performance. However, which party controls the White House can still be an important element for those looking to earn big in the market.

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