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S&P 500 trades near record high but Dow flat as Wall Street investors search for fresh stock-market spark

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U.S. stock benchmarks rose modestly early Monday, with the S&P 500 index trading near record territory but finding few reasons to trade higher amid a congressional stalemate over fresh stimulus to help Americans and businesses hurt by the coronavirus pandemic.

How are major indexes doing?

The Dow Jones Industrial Average
DJIA,
-0.04%

was trading 8 points, or less than 0.1%, higher at around 27,939, weighed lower by a declined in Boeing Co.
BA,
-2.05%

and Goldman Sachs Group Inc.
GS,
-1.25%
.
The S&P 500 index
SPX,
+0.36%

were climbing 13 points to reach 3,386, a gain of 0.4%, at or near its record closing peak at 3,386.15. Meanwhile, the Nasdaq Composite Index
COMP,
+0.73%

rose 78 points, or 0.7%, at 11,097.

On Friday, the Dow gained 1.8% for the week, the S&P 500 booked a weekly advance of 0.6%. Friday’s gain turned the Nasdaq barely positive for the week, up 0.1%.

What’s driving the market?

Market participants were finding a dearth of catalysts for stocks to move toward substantially higher, which some strategists said could be a potentially bearish dynamic as Wall Street heads heading to the fallow part of the summer when trading volume tends to lighten.

“The S&P 500 is failing to breakout of its all-time high. Traders do believe that if the price continues to consolidate here, it is likely that the sentiment may become bearish,” wrote Naeem Aslam, chief market analyst at AvaTrade,” in a note.

Moves for the equity market come against the backdrop of failed negotiations between Democrats and Republicans centered on advancing a new package of aid to help laborers affected by the COVID-19 pandemic after $600 a week in unemployment assistance were halted at the end of last month.

Investors are doubtful that a V-shaped, or quick and powerful, recovery can be achieved without new support for those out of work, but the market’s tepid climb also suggests that bets are being made that an agreement will be achieved eventually.

Meanwhile, the U.S. reported just over 42,000 new COVID-19 cases for Sunday, a sharp drop from Friday’s total of more than 64,000, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. However, the nation’s total number of cases surpassed 5.4 million, about a quarter of the world-wide total.

Elsewhere on Monday, New Zealand, where the outbreak has been under control for much of the pandemic, delayed its elections by about a month after an outbreak in Auckland put a third of voters into lockdown.

In economic reports, a reading on business conditions in the New York area, the Empire State index, fell 13.5 points to 3.7 in August, signaling a slower pace of growth, the regional Fed bank said Monday. Economists had expected a reading of 17, according to a survey by Econoday. The index had surged in July after being in negative territory since the pandemic began.

Separately, a report on home-builder confidence was much stronger than expected, coming out slightly earlier than had been expected on Monday than the scheduled 10 a.m. Eastern release. Builder confidence in the newly built, single-family home market jumped six points to 78 in August on the National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index, with the reading hitting the highest level on record for the report. Builder sentiment plunged to 30 in April. A reading above 50 is considered upbeat.

How are other markets trading?

In Asia Monday trade, China’s CSI 300 index
000300,
+2.35%

closed 2.4% higher, while Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index
HSI,
+0.65%

advanced 0.7% and Japan’s Nikkei 225
NIK,
-0.82%

declined 0.8%.

In Europe, the Stoxx 600 Europe Index
SXXP,
+0.26%

traded 0.3% higher. The FTSE 100
UKX,
+0.50%

was climbing 0.7%.

The yield on the 10-year Treasury note
TMUBMUSD10Y,
0.688%

was off 2.6 basis points at 0.685%. Bond prices move inversely to yields.

Gold prices for December delivery headed higher
GCZ20,
+1.42%

up 1.2%, trade at $1,973.20 an ounce. Crude-oil prices
CLU20,
+0.26%

declined 0.2% lower, pressured by concerns over the outlook for demand, at $41.91 a barrel.

The ICE U.S. Dollar Index,
DXY,
-0.24%

a gauge of the buck against a half-dozen major rivals, was down 0.2% to 92.932.

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