US stocks tread water as post-election rally hits pause

Though Friday marks a pause in Wall Street’s post-election rally, US stock markets are still on track for their best week since April. 

Wall Street’s main stock indexes were hovering near unchanged on Friday as presidential ballots continue to be tallied in key battleground states and investors take heart from a better-than-expected monthly jobs report.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 8.95 points or 0.03 percent to 28,399.13 points at the open of trading on Wall Street.

The S&P 500 – a gauge for the health of US retirement and college savings reports – and tech-heavy the Nasdaq Composite Index opened slightly to the downside.

Though Friday marks a pause in Wall Street’s post-election rally, US stock markets are still on track for their best week since April.

Democratic presidential nominee Jo Biden has taken the lead in Pennsylvania and erased Trump’s lead in Georgia as of Friday morning.

If Biden clinches victory in both states, it would be mathematically impossible for President Donald Trump to reach the 270 electoral vote threshold needed for victory.

A supporter of US President Donald Trump feeds her baby during a protest about the early results of the 2020 presidential election, in front of the Phoenix City Hall, in Phoenix, Arizona, United States [File: Cheney Orr/Reuters]

On Thursday, Biden urged calm and patience and said he is convinced he will win after all the votes are counted.

Trump also delivered a speech on Thursday night challenging the tallies in several battleground states.  Several US television networks halted live coverage of Trump’s address after concluding the president was spreading disinformation.

Early Friday morning, Trump took to Twitter to once again cast doubt over the vote-counting process, writing:  “I easily WIN the Presidency of the United States with LEGAL VOTES CAST”.

Trump has made repeated unsubstantiated claims of “fraud” with Twitter slapping warning signs on post after post, saying the president is apparently spreading misinformation. No election officials have reported fraud.

The United States could be looking at weeks of recounts and legal challenges to the election results.

And though Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell – a Republican – has said he would like to see a new stimulus bill passed before the end of the year, political acrimony does not bode well for Washington to break its deadlock over another round of virus relief aid.

And the economy is facing growing headwinds from the coronavirus pandemic.

On Thursday, COVID-19 cases in the US set a new record as officials registered over 120,000 new infections in a single day. That broke Wednesday’s record of 100,000.

But investors are taking heart from a surprising downtick in the nation’s jobless rate. The Bureau of Labor Statistics said on Friday said that the unemployment rate fell to 6.9 percent in October, which was better than expected.

Still, US employers hired the fewest workers in five months in October. Nonfarm payrolls rose by 638,000 jobs down from 672,000 in September, indicating that the economic recovery has downshifted as the effects of previous rounds of stimulus dwindle and Washington remains at loggerheads over a new stimulus package.

Among stocks making headlines on Friday:

Shares of Marriott International were up 0.733 percent after the lodging giant reported a surprise third-quarter profit as it cut costs and domestic travel got a boost. The hotel chain saw a near doubling of occupancy rates from 19.6 percent in the second quarter to 37 percent in the third quarter in its North American hotels from the previous quarter.

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