U.S. stocks mostly shook off early losses to trade higher Wednesday, though technology sector stocks remained lower, after Democrats scored at least one U.S. Senate seat in run-off elections in Georgia Tuesday, bringing the possibility of regulation and higher corporate taxes.
How are stock benchmarks performing?
The Dow Jones Industrial Average
traded about 306 points, 1%, higher, near 30,698
The S&P 500 index
gained about 18 points, 0.5%, to trade near 3,744
The Nasdaq Composite index
was 50 points lower, down 0.4% near 12,768
The small-cap Russell 2000
gained 2% to about 2,018.
On Tuesday, stocks finished higher:
- The Dow rose 167.71 points, or 0.6%, to 30,391.60
- The S&P 500 added 26.21 points, or 0.7%, to 3,726.86
- The Nasdaq Composite Index gained 120.51 points, or 1%, to trade at 12,818.96.
The Russell 2000 index
What’s driving the market?
Politics was dictating trading action Wednesday after two key runoff elections for U.S. Senate seats in Georgia roiled parts of the market. Democrats were one step closer to control of both houses of Congress, improving chances that President-elect Joe Biden may be able to implement his legislative agenda.
Democrat Raphael Warnock defeated incumbent Republican Kelly Loeffler for one U.S. Senate seat and Democrat Jon Ossoff held a narrow lead over Republican Sen. David Perdue in the other race, according to the Associated Press.
A Democratic sweep of both seats in Georgia would give the party control of the Senate as Vice President—elect Kamala Harris would cast tiebreaking votes as the chamber’s president.
were under pressure though Wednesday on expectations that a Democrat-controlled Congress would lead to higher taxes and tighter regulations of internet based businesses.
U.S. bond yields were also rising, weighing on the broader market, as fixed-income investors wager that a “Blue Wave” in Washington would increase government spending to combat COVID-19’s impact on the economy.
Tech stocks have roared higher in the past year partly because the low interest rate environment that helps justify owning pricier stocks that don’t pay rich dividends, but the 10-year Treasury note early Wednesday climbed over 1%, near its highest since March.
Still, some of the pessimism over the sector may be misplaced, said Paul Nolte, portfolio manager at Kingsview Investment Management. “If technology’s doing really well, we’re worried about the virus. If technology is not doing well, we’re more excited about re-opening,” Nolte said in an interview. “Today small-cap stocks, international stocks, even the yield curve is indicating more economic growth.”
“We’re expecting more of a reflationary trade in general,” Nolte said, “with growth taking a back seat to everything else. The fourth quarter was a taste of that and I think that will continue in fits and starts. We do expect a back-and-forth as we figure out how the economy opens and how much fiscal stimulus actually helps.”
The balance of power in the Senate is now in Democrats’ favor, “which leads naturally to the assumption that there will be another slug of fiscal stimulus to come early this year,” wrote Aegon Asset Management’s fixed-income manager Nick Chatters in a Wednesday note.
But it’s important to keep some perspective on bond yields, Chatters added, noting that the central bank will likely help keep yields in check.
“Whilst it is interesting to talk about fiscal stimulus, and this is important for growth, the main driver of government yields remains the policy rate,” Chatters said. “The channel to higher policy rates is via employment and inflation in the US, and this channel has long and uncertain lags. So, for treasuries, this is important, but not as important as the Fed.”
were rising Wednesday as the yield curve, the spread between short-term bonds and their longer-term counterparts, was widening , a move that tends to be good for the business models of financial institutions.
Reports out Wednesday morning gave a grimmer view of the U.S. economy than analysts had expected. The Automatic Data Processing report on private-sector employment showed the first drop in jobs since April. Private-sector jobs fell by 123,000, ahead of the more closely followed Friday employment report from the Labor Department. The U.S. IHS Markit purchasing managers index for December was also weaker than expected, although a report on factory orders was stronger.
Meanwhile, the U.S. IHS Market service sector purchasing managers index for December fell to 54.8 in December, down from 58.4 in November, signaling a slower expansion amid a surge in coronavirus cases.
On the coronavirus front, the U.S. counted at least 238,763 new cases on Tuesday, and at least 3,648 people died, according to a New York Times tracker. In the last week, the U.S. has averaged 219,650 cases a day.
Minutes of the Federal Reserve’s last meeting, which may give some insight into monetary policy, are due to be released at 2 p.m. ET.
Which companies are in focus?
Shares of JPMorgan Chase &Co.
were more than 4% higher in early trade as investors bet on a steeper yield curve. Shares of Bank of America Corp
Tech giants lost ground: Amazon.com Inc.
shares were down 1.3%, Facebook Inc.
shares lost 2.6%, and Alphabet Inc.
shares fell 1.6%.
Clean-energy companies like SolarEdge Technologies Inc. and TPI Composites Inc.,
which makes wind-power parts, also surged.
shares were more than 3% higher, near $760, as Wall Street analysts remained divided over whether the company’s price target should be closer to $800 or $200.
What are other markets doing?
The 10-year Treasury note
surged above 1% for the first time since the coronavirus pandemic began as traders bet on stronger inflation and more debt issuance, both of which would erode the value of outstanding bonds.
Oil futures were little changed Wednesday, after Saudi Arabia surprised the market by cutting production. Crude for February delivery
was up 0.1% to $49.98.
were off 0.9% at $1,937.20 as bond yields gained.
The pan-European Stoxx 600 Europe index
gained 1.3%, while London’s FTSE 100
surged 3.4% after Moderna’s coronavirus vaccine got the green light from a European regulator.
In Asia, Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index
rose 0.2%, while the Shanghai Composite
gained 0.6% and Japan’s Nikkei 225
The ICE U.S. Dollar Index
a measure of the U.S. currency against a basket of six major rivals, gained 0.1%.