Stocks hover near flat, sterling up after recent weakness

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Global equity indexes were mostly near flat on Wednesday as upbeat COVID-19 vaccine news was offset by lingering concern about the economic recovery, while sterling gained after recent weakness.

FILE PHOTO: A man wearing a protective face mask walks past a stock quotation board outside a brokerage, amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Tokyo, Japan November 2, 2020. REUTERS/Issei Kato

The S&P 500 was unchanged after hitting a record high at the opening.

Investors were hopeful for further U.S. economic relief and more news on vaccines on Wednesday as the coronavirus pandemic continued to take its toll on the U.S. economy.

The U.S. House of Representatives was set to vote Wednesday on a one-week stopgap funding bill that will buy more time to reach a deal on COVID-19 relief, with separate aid packages of more than $900 billion on the table.

“The market remains very optimistic that some sort of a stimulus deal would be cut before the end of the year, and that would indicate the economy may not falter or wind up in a double-dip recession,” said Peter Cardillo, chief market economist at Spartan Capital Securities in New York.

Johnson & Johnson this week said it could obtain late-stage trial results for a single-dose vaccine in January, earlier than expected.

Britain this week became the first Western nation to begin a wide vaccination campaign. However, Britain injected a note of caution, saying people with a history of significant allergic reactions responded adversely to the Pfizer vaccine.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 29.82 points, or 0.1%, to 30,144.06, the S&P 500 lost 1.3 points, or 0.04%, to 3,700.95 and the Nasdaq Composite dropped 8.16 points, or 0.06%, to 12,574.62.

The pan-European STOXX 600 index rose 0.45% and MSCI’s gauge of stocks across the globe gained 0.11%, also hitting a record high earlier.

Sterling was last trading at $1.3396, up 0.32% on the day.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson warned the European Union on Wednesday it must scrap demands which he says are unacceptable if there is to be a Brexit trade deal to avoid a turbulent breakup in three weeks.

The dollar index rose 0.129%.

U.S. Treasury yields rose on hopes of more domestic fiscal stimulus and on the vaccine news.

The benchmark 10-year Treasury note yield was up 3.1 basis points at 0.9444% in morning trading.

Oil futures were down slightly, while spot gold prices were down more than 1%, with the start of vaccine treatment reducing safe-haven demand for the precious metal.

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