US stocks hover near record highs as traders weigh strong earnings against stimulus concerns

Reuters / Andrew Kelly

  • US stocks were mixed on Wednesday as positive retail earnings faced off against renewed trade concerns.
  • The S&P 500 edged higher to a new intraday record a day after closing at an all-time high on Tuesday.
  • Better-than-expected earnings from Target and Lowe’s propped up the benchmark index.
  • Investors also weighed signs of mild stimulus progress. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi suggested on Tuesday that Democrats might nix some facets of their proposal to expedite a relief package and reconsider passing those elements after November’s elections.
  • Oil slightly declined as new virus outbreaks abroad stoked demand worries. West Texas Intermediate crude slipped as much as 1.1%, to $42.37 per barrel.
  • Watch major indexes update live here.

US equities traded mixed on Wednesday as optimism about strong earnings butted heads with renewed trade tensions.

The S&P 500 edged higher to an intraday record a day after closing at an all-time high. In a reversal from recent trends, the Nasdaq composite lagged behind its peers as tech shares underperformed cyclical plays.

Retail stocks were boosted by strong earnings from Target and Lowe’s. The former leaped after beating Wall Street estimates and reporting record same-store sales growth. Lowe’s similarly gained after reporting that growing interest in do-it-yourself projects drove 30% revenue growth.

Here’s where US indexes stood shortly after the 9:30 a.m. ET market open on Wednesday:

  • S&P 500: 3,395.25, up 0.2%
  • Dow Jones industrial average: 27,823.58, up 0.2% (46 points)
  • Nasdaq composite: 11,226.35, up 0.1%

Read more: Jefferies says buy these 7 back-to-school stocks for big returns with much of the US going remote

Investors also mulled new signs of progress in reaching a stimulus deal. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi suggested on Tuesday that Democrats might cut down its fiscal relief proposal to speed up negotiations, adding that measures removed from the smaller bill would be reassessed after November’s elections.

Republican leaders also hinted at resuming talks. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Pelosi’s decision to strike $25 billion in Postal Service funding was enough to restart negotiations. The Senate is on recess until September but could reconvene should lawmakers reach a compromise.

Hopes for an expedited deal were somewhat offset by fears about schools and colleges starting new terms as virus cases remain elevated. Several universities have pivoted to fully online classes after on-campus coronavirus outbreaks. Experts worry that some schools’ lax enforcement of social-distancing measures could fuel a new wave of virus hot spots in the US.

Read more: A $5 billion chief market strategist shares 5 post-pandemic stocks to buy now for gains as COVID-19 cases level off — and 2 big-tech winners to start cashing out of

The S&P 500 closed at its all-time high on Tuesday following the index’s multiple attempts in recent weeks to retrace its virus-driven losses.

In deal news, Momenta Pharmaceuticals soared after the biotech company agreed to a $6.5 billion acquisition by Johnson & Johnson. The deal valued Momenta shares at a 70% premium and is expected to close in the second half of 2020, a press release said.

Oil declined as global virus cases increased and stoked concerns of lasting demand weakness. West Texas Intermediate crude fell as much as 1.1%, to $42.37 per barrel. Brent crude, oil’s international benchmark, slid 1.3% to $44.88, at intraday lows.

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