Stocks move mostly lower even as Nasdaq edges toward record

By ALEX VEIGA and DAMIAN J. TROISE AP Business Writers

Stocks are mostly lower on Wall Street in afternoon trading Wednesday, giving back some of their gains from a record-setting climb a day earlier.

The S&P 500 was down 0.1% a day after setting an all-time high. The Dow Jones Industrial Average slipped below 30,000, a day after crossing that milestone for the first time. Financial, industrial and health care companies pulled the market lower, outweighing gains in technology and other sectors.

The Dow was down 180 points, or 0.6%, to 29,864 as of 3:23 p.m. Eastern time. The tech-heavy Nasdaq composite was up 0.5%, rising above the closing high it reached in early September. Markets in Europe made mostly modest moves. Asian markets closed lower.

“The general themes are still intact, the hope for a vaccine that will herald a return to normalcy at some point in 2021,” said Greg McBride, chief financial analyst at Bankrate.com.

Stocks have been pushing higher this month, driving the S&P 500 up by more than 11%, as investors have grown more hopeful that the development of coronavirus vaccines and treatments will help pave the way for the economy to recover next year.

This week, traders have also been encouraged by signs that the transition of power in the U.S. to President-elect Joe Biden has begun. Wall Street is also welcoming Biden’s selection of former Fed chair Janet Yellen as treasury secretary.

Encouraging study results this month from drugmakers working on coronavirus vaccines and treatments have tempered lingering concerns over rising virus cases in the U.S., as well as in Asia and other parts of the world, and new government restrictions on businesses aimed at limiting the spread.

But signs that the pandemic continues to weigh on the economy remain in the forefront. On Wednesday, the government said the number of Americans applying for unemployment benefits rose last week to 778,000, the highest level in five weeks.

Other data painted a similarly discouraging economic picture. The Commerce Department said U.S. consumer spending, the primary driver of the economy, rose by a sluggish 0.5% in October, the weakest gain since April when the pandemic first erupted. At the same time, the government said that income, which provides the fuel for consumer spending, fell 0.7% in October.

Though financial markets continue making gains, hardship from the economic slump is still growing, McBride said, and both small businesses and consumers are “sorely in need” of additional financial stimulus.

Treasury yields were mixed in afternoon trading after mostly moving lower in the early going, a sign of caution in the market. The yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury held steady at 0.87%.

Gap led the way lower in the S&P 500, falling 18.8%, after the clothing retailer’s third-quarter results fell short of Wall Street’s forecasts.

Nordstrom jumped 14.3% after the department store chain’s earnings improved in the third quarter, even as sales missed analysts’ forecasts.

Traders bid HP shares 1.5% higher after the company delivered a solid quarterly report card.
U.S. markets will be closed Thursday for the Thanksgiving holiday. They will be open for half the day on Friday, closing at 1 p.m. Eastern.

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