ASX set to rise with Wall Street on track to end losing streak

Stocks on Wall Street are making another run at breaking their losing streak, climbing on Tuesday (US time) as negotiations drag on in Washington on whether to deliver more support for the economy.

The S&P 500 was 0.8 per cent higher in afternoon trading after a bipartisan group of lawmakers unveiled a detailed COVID-19 relief proposal and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin spoke late on Monday about the urgency of approving aid for the struggling economy. A day earlier, the S&P 500 jumped to a morning gain of 0.9 per cent amid hopes for progress in Washington, only to fade in the afternoon and lock in its fourth straight loss.

Wall Street is higher in afternoon trade as it looks to end its four-session losing streak.
Wall Street is higher in afternoon trade as it looks to end its four-session losing streak. Credit:AP

In early afternoon trade, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 0.7 per cent and the Nasdaq composite was 0.7 per cent higher. At 5.13 am AEDT, futures are pointing to a gain of 36 points, or 0.5 per cent, at the open for the ASX.

Also helping to steady the market were hopes for an improving economy next year as COVID-19 vaccines become widely distributed. A vaccine candidate developed by Moderna and the National Institutes of Health may be on the cusp of regulatory approval after the Food and Drug Administration said its preliminary analysis confirmed its safety and effectiveness. It would join the nation’s first vaccine, which just began rolling out. Hundreds of hospital and health care facilities will get their first shipments Tuesday of the vaccine developed by Pfizer and BioNTech.


Another big gain for Apple also helped to lift Wall Street. It’s the most influential stock in the S&P 500 because of its massive size, and it rose 3.8 per cent after a report from Japan’s Nikkei said it may produce more iPhones in the first half of 2021 than analysts had been expecting.

Much of the market’s focus remains on Washington, though, where a deep partisan divide has kept Congress from delivering another dose of financial support for the economy. Economists and investors have been clamouring for more aid for jobless workers and hard-hit industries, among other things, particularly as surging coronavirus counts pummel the economy again.

The number of US workers applying for unemployment benefits is back on the rise, as governments around the country and world bring back varying degrees of restrictions on businesses. Even without lockdown orders, the fear is that the rising number of deaths will keep customers away from businesses.

Another round of financial support from Washington could help carry the economy through what’s expected to be a bleak winter, before vaccines help things get closer to normal next year.

Stocks of companies already hit hardest by the pandemic were lagging the market sharply on Tuesday. Norwegian Cruise Line fell 3.3 per cent, cruise-operator Royal Caribbean dropped 2 per cent and American Airlines Group slipped 1.3 per cent.

“It’s probably just a more sober look at what a vaccine rollout timeline looks like,” said Ross Mayfield, investment strategy analyst at Baird.

Worries about the worsening pandemic and stop-and-start talks in Washington about support for the economy have made the market shaky in recent weeks. It earlier surged through November on hopes for coming COVID-19 vaccines and relief that the US presidential election ended with a clear winner, Democrat Joe Biden. The electoral college confirmed Biden’s victory on Monday.

Still, the S&P 500 remains near its record set a week ago. Massive efforts by the Federal Reserve have provided another huge underpinning, and the central bank begins its last policy meeting of the year on Tuesday. It will announce its decision on Wednesday after already cutting short-term interest rates to nearly zero and indicating it will keep them there for a while even if inflation rises above its target of 2 per cent.

In European stock markets, France’s CAC 40 rose 0.4 per cent, and Germany’s DAX returned 1.1 per cent. The FTSE 100 in London slipped 0.3 per cent.

The yield on the 10-year Treasury rose to 0.91 per cent from 0.88 per cent late Monday.


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