Wall Street subdued as wait for stimulus continues

(Reuters) – Wall Street’s main indexes struggled for direction on Friday as investors fretted over an impasse in Washington on the new coronavirus aid bill, while turning cautious ahead of the Nov. 3 presidential election.

FILE PHOTO: A Wall Street sign is pictured outside the New York Stock Exchange in the Manhattan borough of New York City, New York, U.S., October 2, 2020. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri/File Photo

The Dow and the Nasdaq were weighed down by a 10.8% slump in chipmaker Intel Corp after it reported a drop in margins as consumers bought cheaper laptops and pandemic-stricken businesses and governments clamped down on data center spending.

Uncertainty over the timeline of the relief legislature has been weighing on Wall Street’s major indexes, which were set to end a choppy week slightly lower.

White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows said late on Thursday that negotiations with lawmakers on a coronavirus relief package, now totaling $1.9 trillion, had entered a new phase.

“We are kind of on a hold at this point.. still waiting for something to come out of Washington,” said Paul Nolte, portfolio manager at Kingsview Asset Management in Chicago.

“Our base case is that we don’t get a meaningful stimulus package until after the election and probably not until first quarter.”

Meanwhile, a record 50 million Americans cast ballots, eclipsing total early voting from the 2016 election. President Donald Trump and Democratic rival Joe Biden debated on Thursday for the last time to persuade the few remaining undecided voters 11 days before their contest.

Heading into the debate, Trump trailed former vice president Biden in national polls, but the contest is much tighter in some battleground states where the election will likely be decided. At 11:13 a.m. ET, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was down 14.50 points, or 0.05%, at 28,349.16 and the S&P 500 was up 6.04 points, or 0.17%, at 3,459.53. The Nasdaq Composite was down 4.20 points, or 0.04%, at 11,501.81.

Third-quarter earnings season chugged along, with 84% of the 126 S&P 500 companies that have reported so far topping quarterly profit estimates, according to Refinitiv data.

Gilead Sciences Inc jumped 1.8% as its antiviral drug remdesivir became the first and only drug approved for treating patients hospitalized with COVID-19 in the United States.

The healthcare index added 0.7%, more than any other S&P sector.

American Express Co dropped 2.7% as it missed estimates for third-quarter profit after its customers spent less during the COVID-19 fueled economic slowdown and it set aside money for potential payment defaults.

Advancing issues outnumbered decliners by a 1.61-to-1 ratio on the NYSE and by a 1.28-to-1 ratio on the Nasdaq.

The S&P index recorded 25 new 52-week highs and no new low, while the Nasdaq recorded 49 new highs and 12 new lows.

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