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Stock-market futures slip, bond yields pop near 1% amid razor-thin Georgia races


Wall Street had Georgia squarely on its mind Tuesday night, with equity futures and bonds mostly in the crosshairs as investors eyed dual contests for key Senate seats coming down to razor-thin margins in early returns.

MarketWatch’s Victor Reklaitis reported that analysts are describing the Georgia races as “about as close as you can get,” and there are expectations that the winners won’t be declared until Wednesday morning.

At last check, tallies from populous Democratic-leaning counties, particularly in Dekalb, which could swing the vote tally, were looming.

Democratic challenger Jon Ossoff was trailing incumbent Republican Sen. David Perdue, with over 90% of the vote counted, after enjoying a handy lead earlier, according to data aggregated by the Associated Press.

In the other runoff, Democrat Raphael Warnock was also running slightly behind against incumbent GOP Sen. Kelly Loeffler.

The Senate races are runoffs from the November general election, when none of the candidates hit the 50% threshold required to be declared winner.

At stake for the markets is the prospect of a slim Democratic majority in the Senate if candidates can upend GOP incumbents.

Senate Republicans, if either Loeffler or Perdue wins Tuesday night, can be expected to block further coronavirus relief legislation and crimp any Democratic plans for expansive spending after President-elect Joe Biden takes office, experts said.

A Democratic sweep in Georgia, however, would give that party virtual control of that chamber because Vice President–elect Kamala Harris would cast tiebreaking votes as the chamber’s president.

Futures for the S&P 500 index
ESH21,
-0.64%

ES00,
-0.64%

were off 0.7%, while those for the Dow Jones Industrial Average
YMH21,
-0.24%

YM00,
-0.24%

were 0.3% lower, and Nasdaq-100 futures
NQH21,
-1.34%

NQ00,
-1.34%

were off 1.3% late Tuesday.

In the regular session, the Dow
DJIA,
+0.55%
,
S&P 500 index
SPX,
+0.71%

and the Nasdaq Composite Index
COMP,
+0.95%

finished the session solidly higher ahead of the political face-offs.

However, some of the biggest moves were emanating from the bond market, with the 10-year Treasury yield
TMUBMUSD10Y,
1.000%

knocking on the door of 1%, at around 0.985%, as prices fell, after rates finished at 0.955%, marking its highest 3 p.m. Eastern close since Dec. 4, according to Dow Jones Market Data. The 30-year Treasury bond
TMUBMUSD30Y,
1.762%

also was up nearly 4 basis points yielding 1.744% vs. an afternoon close at 1.705%, also its highest rate in a month.

For the bond market, Democratic wins could add to the bearish pressure on Treasurys as analysts say inflation expectations have risen in response as Congress may be more inclined to pass additional fiscal spending measures with a majority, which would weigh on bond prices, dragging yields up.

“It looks like a couple of the larger democratic counties haven’t been totally counted yet so my belief is this may very well swing to the Democrats,” Tom di Galoma, managing director of Treasurys trading at Seaport Global Securities, told MarketWatch.

“If that does happen rates will continue to rise over the next few days. We could very well see 10yr yields near 1.2% shortly,” he wrote.

It is nearly impossible to surmise what outcome Wall Street deems is best suited to push stocks further higher in 2021. Last year, market participants had been wagering that a Biden presidential victory, coupled with Democrats achieving a majority in the Senate, would provide the best scenario for additional financial relief measures to help sustain the economy’s recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic.

However, a blue wave failed to manifest and markets surged into the final weeks of 2020 regardless.



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Dow Slips Amid New Travel Curbs


The index of blue-chip stocks fell 200.94 points, or 0.7%, to 30015.51, marking its largest one-day point and percentage decline in December. The S&P 500 slid 7.66 points, or 0.2%, to 3687.26 to extend its losing streak to a third session.

The tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite, in contrast, rose 65.40 points, or 0.5%, to 12807.92, a new all-time high.

Much of the stock market has lost steam this week as some nations began taking steps to curtail travel in an effort to contain the emergence of a fast-spreading variant of coronavirus from England. The U.K. imposed stringent restrictions on social and business activity, prompting concern that more countries may be required to adopt measures that would hamper the global economic recovery.

“It would be a brave man to suggest this will just remain a U.K.-specific issue,” said

Derek Halpenny,

head of research for global markets in the European region at MUFG Bank. “Are we going back into another phase of more pronounced global lockdowns again?”

Oil prices slipped for a second day amid growing worries over the new restrictions imposed on travelers from the U.K. to other countries. Brent crude futures, the benchmark in international energy markets, dropped 1.6% to $50.08 a barrel.

Meanwhile, the yield on the 10-year note ticked down to 0.917%, from 0.941% Monday, as some investors looked to the relative safety of U.S. government bonds. Yields fall when prices rise.

Investors are trying to gauge whether the new strain of Covid-19 will impact the efficacy of vaccines that are being rolled out this month.

BioNTech

Chief Executive

Ugur Sahin

said the vaccine developed by his company, in partnership with

Pfizer,

would likely work against the new variant and is being tested. If a new mutation would make the current vaccine ineffective, BioNTech can develop another tailored to the new variant in six weeks, he said.

Technology stocks traded higher on Nasdaq, in contrast to declines for the S&P and Dow.



Photo:

Michael Nagle/Bloomberg News

“The big unknown is to what degree could the new strain make the efficacy of the vaccine lower,” said

Peter Garnry,

head of equity strategy at Saxo Bank. “If it just turns out to be more infections, and it doesn’t have an effect on the vaccine, then the market will be less concerned.”

Late Monday, a fresh $900 billion fiscal stimulus package was passed by Congress, ending weeks of anticipation from investors about whether lawmakers could end their stalemate. The bill, which includes direct checks to households and relief for small businesses, is expected to be signed by

President Trump.

Even so, the bill’s passage wasn’t enough to propel the broader stock market higher.

“We’ve had the positive news on the vaccines and the fiscal deal, so there’s probably not a catalyst to drive stocks meaningfully higher in the next few weeks,” said

Brian Levitt,

global market strategist at Invesco.

When Is the Market on Holiday?

Select stock-market closures through year’s end

  • Thurs. Dec. 24: U.S. stock market closes at 1 p.m. ET
  • Fri. Dec. 25: Markets closed
  • Mon. Dec. 28: London stock market closed
  • Fri. Jan. 1: Markets closed

Still, Mr. Levitt noted that he maintains a positive outlook on equities.

“In my opinion, betting against stocks over the next year and beyond is betting against medicine, science and policy makers,” he said. “And I’m not willing to make those bets.”

In corporate news,

Apple

rose $3.65, or 2.9%, to $131.88 after Reuters reported that the iPhone maker intends to move forward with its own self-driving car technology.

Exercise-equipment maker

Peloton Interactive

gained $16.82, or 12%, to $161.21, hitting a new all-time-high, after it agreed to buy commercial fitness-equipment provider Precor for $420 million in cash.

Travel stocks and shares of energy companies tumbled.

Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings

slid $1.70, or 6.9%, to $23.08.

Chevron

fell for an eighth consecutive day, losing $1.73, or 2%, to $84.36. That marks the longest losing streak for the oil giant since October 2013.

Meanwhile,

Tesla

tumbled $9.52, or 1.5%, to $640.34, extending its losses for the week to nearly 8%. The electric-car maker made its S&P 500 debut Monday.

Moves in stocks could be big and markets may be especially choppy in coming days because fewer people are trading as the holiday period starts, said

Salman Ahmed,

global head of macro at Fidelity International.

The final stretch of trading in December is historically positive for the stock market. But this week’s losses may be a sign that investors are starting to take profits after a blockbuster year, especially as they consider the possibility of tax changes after President-elect

Joe Biden

takes office, said

JJ Kinahan,

chief market strategist at TD Ameritrade. The S&P 500 is up 14% in 2020, and the Nasdaq Composite has catapulted 43% higher.

Footage shows empty supermarket shelves while trucks bearing cargo get stuck at the border after France imposed a travel ban on Britain following the spread of a new coronavirus strain. Other countries have also barred passengers from the U.K. Photo: Neil Hall/EPA/Shutterstock

Additionally, Mr. Kinahan noted, Tuesday’s worse-than-expected consumer confidence report may also be weighing on markets.

The Conference Board, a private research group, said its index of consumer confidence dropped to 88.6 in the first two weeks of December, from a revised 92.9 in November. Economists surveyed by The Wall Street Journal had expected a level of 97.5.

Still, there were small signs of optimism. Data from the Commerce Department showed Tuesday that U.S. gross domestic product—the value of all goods and services produced across the economy—increased at an annualized rate of 33.4% in the third quarter, slightly stronger than the previous estimate issued last month.

Overseas, European shares rebounded after Monday’s losses. The pan-continental Stoxx Europe 600 gained 1.2%.

Major stock indexes in Asia closed lower. China’s Shanghai Composite fell 1.9%, and South Korea’s Kospi declined 1.6%.

Write to Caitlin Ostroff at [email protected] and Caitlin McCabe at [email protected]

Copyright ©2020 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved. 87990cbe856818d5eddac44c7b1cdeb8



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Dow Futures Are Softer Amid a Fed and Treasury Clash


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U.S. Stocks Rise Ahead of Tech Earnings


U.S. stocks rose Thursday, rebounding after fresh data showed jobless claims dropped and the economy expanded sharply in the third quarter.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 137 points, or 0.5%, as of the 4 p.m. close of trading in New York. The S&P 500 added 1.2%. Both indexes on Wednesday suffered their biggest one-day percentage declines since June.

The Nasdaq Composite advanced 1.6% ahead of earnings reports from some of the biggest companies in the technology sector.

Fresh data showed that 751,000 Americans applied for initial unemployment benefits through the week ended Saturday, down from a seasonally adjusted 791,000 in the prior week. The decline is a sign that the labor market is slowly recovering, though claims remain at historically high levels.

Meanwhile, U.S. gross domestic product for the third quarter rose at an annual pace of 33.1%, the biggest gain ever. The increase followed a record drop in output earlier in the year when the virus and related shutdowns disrupted business activity across the country.



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U.S. Stock Indexes Open Higher on Earnings Optimism


U.S. stocks opened higher Monday, continuing last week’s gains as investors look ahead to a week that could bring the start of a turnaround for corporate earnings.

The S&P 500 rose 0.8% after the opening bell, lifted by gains in technology shares. The Nasdaq Composite jumped 1.3%. The Dow Jones Industrial Average added 0.3%, about 98 points.

The early gains are on track to extend last week’s rally, during which the benchmark S&P 500 index advanced 3.8%, its biggest weekly gain in three months. Driving part of the rally, some investors said, was signs that the November presidential election could have more of a decisive result than originally expected as polls showed a growing lead for former Vice President Joe Biden over President Trump.

This week, the focus is likely to shift to the third-quarter earnings season. Investors are betting that the results will show corporate performance has turned a corner, helping lift stocks higher. With the economy continuing to slowly reopen, profits of large companies in the S&P 500 are now projected to drop 20% from a year earlier, an improvement from the 25% decline anticipated at the end of June.

“There is a big sense that [the third quarter] was a big quarter for growth in the U.S.,” said Kit Juckes, macro strategist at Société Générale. “It’s economically not as bad as our worst nightmare.”

Earnings will continue to rebound but the pace of improvement will slow, said Jim Cielinski, global head of fixed income at Janus Henderson.

Many companies “almost had to shut down” in the second quarter, “so the mere reopening, particularly in goods-producing companies, can lead to a pretty abrupt improvement,” he said. But, “with increased lockdowns or quasi-lockdowns, the pace of that should slow.”

Markets are also betting the Democrats may secure control of the Senate in the November election, making it a full sweep. That would lay the ground for a large stimulus package to be passed by Congress, offering additional relief to households and businesses, in the early months of next year.

“There is a good chance that we’ve overplayed the volatility due to the November election,” said Edmund Shing, Global Head of Equity Derivative Strategy at

BNP Paribas.

The Federal Reserve is still “in ‘whatever it takes’ mode,” and both major parties are committed to more stimulus, though a bipartisan deal is very unlikely, he said.

The latest White House offer on a new coronavirus package hit resistance from both Democrats and Republicans over the weekend, deflating hopes that an agreement would be struck before Nov. 3. But investors had already written off hopes of a deal before the election, and are looking ahead to the new year.

There is little incentive for lawmakers to reach an accord before the election, Mr. Shing said. That is partly because there will inevitably be a considerable lag between the actual spending and the growth, which he predicts would only start in earnest toward the end of 2021.

“The greatest odds of increased stimulus would come with the clean sweep. And we’ve already seen the Democrats’ numbers are much larger,” said Mr. Cielinski.

A decisive Democratic victory is likely to increase the scale and focus of a potential fiscal injection, Mr. Cielinski said. “What the attempt of the Democratic package is, it’s a reallocation of income away from corporations and more toward the general populace, and in particular the lower earning echelons of the general populace,” who have a higher propensity to spend, he said.

In premarket trading, shares of

Twilio

jumped 4.7% after the cloud-communications company said it would buy data-platform firm Segment in a $3.2 billion stock deal expected to close during the fourth quarter.

In commodities, Brent crude, the international oil benchmark, fell 1.3% to $42.32 a barrel.

The market for U.S. Treasurys is closed for Columbus Day.

Overseas, the Stoxx Europe 600 gained 0.8%. The yield on Italy’s benchmark 10-year bond fell to a new all-time low of 0.686%.

China’s Shanghai Composite Index closed up 2.6% and Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index advanced 2.2%.

Over the weekend, China made it easier for traders to bet the yuan will fall in value, a move analysts said showed that the country’s central bank wants to slow any further rally in the currency. Starting Monday, banks no longer need to deposit 20% of their sales when buying and selling what are called currency forwards denominated in U.S. dollars for clients.

The yuan weakened 0.8% to about 6.74 per dollar in offshore markets.

Copyright ©2020 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved. 87990cbe856818d5eddac44c7b1cdeb8



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