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Sept. 24, 2020, 4:59 p.m. EDT

Dow ekes out gain in turbulent trade as Wall Street struggles to shrug off market uncertainty

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By Mark DeCambre, MarketWatch , Sunny Oh


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Stock benchmark indexes ended with modest gains Thursday, reflecting a market that has struggled to find its footing amid signs of softening economic data and a raft of uncertainties ahead.

How did major benchmarks fare?

The Dow Jones Industrial Average /zigman2/quotes/210598065/realtime DJIA -0.59% rose 52.31 points, or 0.2%, to close at 26,815.44, after touching an intraday peak of 27,094.85. The S&P 500 /zigman2/quotes/210599714/realtime SPX -1.21%  picked up 9.67 points, or 0.3%, to end at 3,246.59, after earlier breaching a level below correction territory — defined as a drop of 10% from a recent peak — for the index at 3,222.76. The Nasdaq Composite Index /zigman2/quotes/210598365/realtime COMP -2.45% gained 39.28 points, or 0.4%, finishing at 10,672.27.

What drove the market?

Stocks were wobbly for most of Thursday, as investors waded through a morass of issues, including rancor on Capitol Hill, which has overshadowed progress on another pandemic spending bill. Market participants worry a lack of fresh stimulus would derail an economic rebound.

In a bid to restart negotiations, House Democratic lawmakers have begun to prepare a new $2.4 trillion coronavirus aid package, $1 trillion smaller than their previous proposed bill, according to multiple published reports on Thursday.

The news may have helped provide stocks with a brief boost in the last hour of trading Thursday, even though the discussed aid still eclipses the $500 billion package Senate Republicans proposed earlier this month. The size and scope of previous additional aid have been key sticking points that led prior rounds of talks to break down.

Fresh attempts to drum up support for more aid for households, businesses and cities come as a weekly report in unemployment claims showed that job gains in the aftermath of the pandemic may be stalling, raising further fears about the shape of the U.S. economic recovery.

Jobless claims rose 4,000 to 870,000, the Labor Department said Thursday, reflecting that slightly more Americans applied for state unemployment benefits in the week ended Sept. 19 than in the prior week. Economists surveyed by MarketWatch had been looking for claims to decline to 850,000. Claims in the prior week were raised 6,000 to 866,000.

“While jobless claims under a million for four straight weeks could be considered a positive, we’re staring down a pretty stagnant labor market,” wrote Mike Loewengart, managing director for investment strategy at E-Trade Financial Corp. , in emailed remarks.

Without additional stimulus from Washington, “jobless Americans will likely continue to exist in limbo,” Loewengart said. “Further, a shaky labor market translates into a skittish consumer, and in the face of a pandemic that seemingly won’t go away without a vaccine, the outlook for the economy certainly comes into question.”

Remarks by Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell in congressional testimony this week, as well as comments by other Fed policy makers, signaled that the central bank is taking a wait-and-see approach when it comes to further monetary stimulus beyond what’s already in place, while pointing to the need for Congress to act on fiscal stimulus.

On top of that, fears of a contested presidential election on Nov. 3 also have begun to weigh on sentiment, analysts said. President Donald Trump on Wednesday refused to commit to a peaceful transition of power following the election, telling reporters “we’ll have to see what happens…I’ve been complaining very strongly about the ballots. And the ballots are a disaster.” Trump was referring to mail-in ballots, which he has asserted, without evidence, are prone to widespread fraud.

Read: Why stock-market investors are starting to freak out about the 2020 election

Trump also suggested the Supreme Court will have to make a ruling on the outcome of the election, emphasizing that a new justice, replacing Ruth Bader Ginsburg, should be confirmed before Election Day.

“With an acrimonious battle over the Supreme Court nomination underway, it appears unlikely that a [stimulus] package will pass before the election,” said Mark Haefele, chief investment officer for UBS Global Wealth Management, in a note, though he remained confident that a bill would eventually be passed.

/zigman2/quotes/210598065/realtime
US : Dow Jones Global
26,501.60
-157.51 -0.59%
Volume: 506.32M
Oct. 30, 2020 5:18p
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/zigman2/quotes/210599714/realtime
US : S&P US
3,269.96
-40.15 -1.21%
Volume: 3.01B
Oct. 30, 2020 5:18p
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/zigman2/quotes/210598365/realtime
US : U.S.: Nasdaq
10,911.59
-274.00 -2.45%
Volume: 3.18M
Oct. 30, 2020 5:16p
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