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S&P500 declines despite stimulus package

By Stephen Culp

NEW YORK, Dec 22 (Reuters) – The S&P 500 lost ground on Tuesday as concerns over a new variant of the coronavirus and disappointing economic data stole the thunder from Washington’s passage of a long-awaited pandemic relief bill.

The Dow also closed lower, while Apple Inc helped push the tech-heavy Nasdaq’s to an all-time closing high.

Small caps advanced, with the Russell 2000 also closing at a record level.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 0.7 per cent to 30,015.51, the S&P 500 lost 0.2 per cent and the Nasdaq Composite added 0.5 per cent.

Of the 11 major sectors in the S&P 500, only tech and real estate ended the session in positive territory.

“Today the market is catching its breath,” said Ryan Detrick, senior market strategist at LPL Financial in Charlotte, North Carolina. “It’s digesting the two big pieces of news we’ve gotten in the last 24 hours, the stimulus and the new COVID strain.”

Apple was an outlier amid a broad sell-off, gaining 2.8% and providing the biggest lift to the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq on news of the company’s plans to roll out an electric passenger vehicle by 2024.

Overnight, Congress passed a pandemic relief package worth $892 billion after months of a partisan tug-of-war, aimed at propping up an economic recovery faltering under the weight of restrictions aimed at containing a coronavirus resurgence.

That resurgence continues to swell, infecting 214,000 Americans every day, prompting mandatory shutdowns and pushing hospitals to capacity.

A fast-spreading new variant of the virus discovered in Britain has brought movement in and out of the UK to a halt and sent vaccine makers Pfizer Inc and Moderna Inc scrambling to ensure their drugs were effective against it.

Fears of the coronavirus and optimism about an eventual economic recovery made for extreme volatility on Wall Street in 2020, with the S&P 500 logging daily gains or losses of 2 per cent or more over 40 times in the year so far, the most in over a decade.

“This will be the first year in history when stocks were off 30 per cent for the year at one point and finished in the green,” Detrick said. “It’s truly an amazing round-trip and we’ve never seen anything like it.”

Volume on U.S. exchanges was 11.02 billion shares, compared with the 11.62 billion average over the last 20 trading days.

Rating changes

Courtesy of Bloomberg

  • AusNet Raised to Hold at Morningstar
  • Mesoblast ADRs Cut to Hold at Maxim
  • Youfoodz Rated New Buy at Bell Potter; price target of $1.50 (last at 94¢)

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Your editors for the penultimate day of trade before Christmas are Lucy Battersby and Dominic Powell.

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