S&P 500 trades near record high but Dow slips as Wall Street investors search for fresh stock-market spark

S&P 500 trades near record high but Dow slips as Wall Street investors search for fresh stock-market spark

U.S. stock benchmarks mostly rose midday Monday, with the S&P 500 index trading near record territory but finding few reasons to trade substantially higher amid a congressional stalemate over fresh stimulus to help Americans and businesses hurt by the coronavirus pandemic.

How are major indexes doing?

The Dow Jones Industrial Average
DJIA,
-0.14%
was trading 61 points, or 0.2%, lower at around 27,869, weighed lower by a declined in Boeing Co.
BA,
-2.98%
and Goldman Sachs Group Inc.
GS,
-2.54%.
The S&P 500 index
SPX,
+0.39%
was climbing 11 points to reach 3,384, a gain of 0.3%, at or near its record closing peak at 3,386.15. Meanwhile, the Nasdaq Composite Index
COMP,
+0.87%
rose 82 points, or 0.8%, at about 11,101.

On Friday, the Dow gained 1.8% for the week, the S&P 500 booked a weekly advance of 0.6%. Friday’s gain turned the Nasdaq barely positive for the week, up 0.1%.

What’s driving the market?

Market participants were finding a dearth of catalysts for stocks to move toward substantially higher, which some strategists said could be a potentially bearish dynamic as Wall Street heads into the fallow part of the summer when trading volume tends to lighten.

“While the S&P 500 is within 1% of the all-time high from February, several attempts last week to break through to a new high failed. With earnings season largely over and fiscal stimulus unlikely for at least a month, markets lack a catalyst to help markets overcome technical resistance,” wrote Mark Hackett, chief of investment research at Nationwide, in an emailed note.

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“The S&P 500 is failing to breakout of its all-time high. Traders do believe that if the price continues to consolidate here, it is likely that the sentiment may become bearish,” wrote Naeem Aslam, chief market analyst at AvaTrade,” in a note.

Moves for the equity market come against the backdrop of failed negotiations between Democrats and Republicans centered on advancing a new package of aid to help laborers affected by the COVID-19 pandemic after $600 a week in unemployment assistance were halted at the end of last month.

“While aid for state and local governments and enhanced unemployment aid remain the most contentious issues, funding for the USPS ahead of mail-in voting has emerged as a new issue,” Hackett wrote.

Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said on Sunday that she would call the House back into session to address funding for the U.S. Postal Service, as funding for the organization has become a politically hot button issue heading toward the Nov. 3 election, with concerns about the spread of COVID-19.

Investors are doubtful that a V-shaped, or quick and powerful, recovery can be achieved without new support for those out of work, but the market’s tepid climb also suggests that bets are being made that an agreement will be achieved eventually.

Meanwhile, the U.S. reported just over 42,000 new COVID-19 cases for Sunday, a sharp drop from Friday’s total of more than 64,000, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. However, the nation’s total number of cases surpassed 5.4 million, about a quarter of the world-wide total.

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Elsewhere on Monday, New Zealand, where the outbreak has been under control for much of the pandemic, delayed its elections by about a month after an outbreak in Auckland put a third of voters into lockdown.

In economic reports, a reading on business conditions in the New York area, the Empire State index, fell 13.5 points to 3.7 in August, signaling a slower pace of growth, the regional Fed bank said Monday. Economists had expected a reading of 17, according to a survey by Econoday. The index had surged in July after being in negative territory since the pandemic began.

Separately, a report on home-builder confidence was much stronger than expected, coming out slightly earlier than had been expected on Monday than the scheduled 10 a.m. Eastern release. Builder confidence in the newly built, single-family home market jumped six points to 78 in August on the National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index, with the reading hitting the highest level on record for the report. Builder sentiment plunged to 30 in April. A reading above 50 is considered upbeat.

Which stocks are in focus?
  • Tesla Inc.’s stock
    TSLA,
    +7.76%
    climbed 7.2% Monday, putting them on track to open in record territory, after analyst Dan Ives at Wedbush raised his price target to $1,900 from $1,800, citing continued signs of accelerating demand in China.

  • Shares of Nvidia Corp.
    NVDA,
    +6.96%
    rose 5.6% toward a record Monday, after Susquehanna analyst Christopher Rolland raised his price target to a Street high $540 from $450.

  • Shares of JD.com Inc.
    JD,
    +5.02%
    rose 2.9% Monday, after the China-based e-commerce company reported a second-quarter profit and revenue that rose above expectations, as active customer accounts showed continued improvement.

  • Domino’s Pizza Inc.
    DPZ,
    +1.95%
    said Monday that it will hire 20,000 new workers nationwide to fill positions including assistant manager, customer service representative and pizza maker. Shares were up 1.7% on Monday.

  • Apple’s stock
    AAPL,
    -0.30%
    was heading toward a record close, with a market value near $2 trillion, despite its dust-up with Fornite developer Epic Games.

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How are other markets trading?

In Asia Monday trade, China’s CSI 300 index
000300,
+2.35%
closed 2.4% higher, while Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index
HSI,
+0.65%
advanced 0.7% and Japan’s Nikkei 225
NIK,
-0.82%
declined 0.8%.

In Europe, the Stoxx 600 Europe Index
SXXP,
+0.32%
wrapped up the session 0.3% higher, while the U.K.’s FTSE 100
UKX,
+0.61%
finished 0.6% higher.

The 10-year Treasury note
TMUBMUSD10Y,
0.676%
was off 3 basis points at 0.672%. Bond prices move inversely to yields.

Gold prices for December delivery headed higher
GCZ20,
+2.43%
up 2.3%, trade near $2,000 at $1,995 an ounce. Crude-oil prices
CLU20,
+1.02%
gained 0.8% at $42.32 a barrel.

The ICE U.S. Dollar Index,
DXY,
-0.24%
a gauge of the buck against a half-dozen major rivals, was down 0.3% to 92.841.

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Cory Weinberg

About the Author: Cory Weinberg

Cory Weinberg covers the intersection of tech and cities. That means digging into how startups and big tech companies are trying to reshape real estate, transportation, urban planning, and travel. Previously, he reported on Bay Area housing and commercial real estate for the San Francisco Business Times. He received a "best young journalist" award from the National Association of Real Estate Editors.

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