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Wall St closes lower over shutdown worries

Stephen Culp
·2-min read

US stocks have lost substantial ground at the close of a see-saw session as investors weigh encouraging vaccine developments against surging COVID-19 infections and lockdowns.

While all three major US stock indexes closed Wednesday in the red, surging Tesla Inc shares helped cap the Nasdaq's loss.

"It's a confused market because portfolio managers don't know which time period to focus on," said Tim Ghriskey at Inverness Counsel in New York.

"It's this trade-off between the near term over the six to nine months of continued spread of the virus and the period after that when everyone's vaccinated and the virus is eradicated."

"There's a lot of issues out there but the decided bias has been toward value and cyclicals."

Pfizer Inc and German partner BioNTech revealed a 95 per cent success rate at the conclusion of their COVID-19 vaccine trial, just days after Moderna Inc announced a similar rate of success in preliminary data from its candidate.

Market participants have been greeting vaccine developments with guarded optimism as global new infections soar to record levels, raising the possibility of increased restrictions as the economy struggles to recover from recession.

The United States remains the country worst affected by the pandemic.

Unofficially, the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 345.91 points, or 1.16 per cent, to 29,437.44, the S&P 500 lost 41.81 points, or 1.16 per cent, to 3,567.72 and the Nasdaq Composite dropped 97.74 points, or 0.82 per cent, to 11,801.60.

Third-quarter reporting season has reached the final inning, with 468 of the companies in the S&P 500 having reported. Of those, 84.4 per cent have surprised consensus to the upside, according to Refinitiv.

Boeing Co initially provided the biggest lift to the Dow after the Federal Aviation Commission green-lighted the planemaker's grounded 737 MAX aircraft to resume flights but its shares later reversed course.

Shares of Target Corp advanced after handily beating quarterly profit and sales estimates, which were boosted by a 155 per cent jump in comparable digital sales.

Lowe's Companies Inc dropped after the home improvement retailer forecast lower-than-expected holiday quarter earnings as it beefs up online business and doles out bonuses to ease pandemic-related hardship.