Stocks rise after jobless claims improve, though stimulus deal remains elusive

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Stocks traded higher Thursday, after declining a day earlier, as traders continued to fixate on dimming prospects of more stimulus before the election. Third-quarter corporate earnings results rolled in mixed, and a new report weekly jobless claims came in better-than-feared.

[Click here to read what’s moving markets heading into Friday, October 23]

Shares of Tesla (TSLA) gained more than 2%, after the electric vehicle-maker posted a fifth straight quarterly profit and reaffirmed its goal to hit a half-million vehicle deliveries this year. Chipotle (CMG), on the other hand, slid more than 4% after posting thinning margins as costs associated with a surge in delivery demand weighed on profitability.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told reporters on Thursday that negotiators were “just about there” when it came to hashing out a deal for more virus-relief aid.

“The president wants a bill. That’s part of the opportunity that we have,” Pelosi said in Washington.

Stocks hit session highs shortly after her remarks, with the Dow gaining about 200 points. Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin were scheduled to speak on Thursday to discuss the deal, and the White House’s last public offer stood at around $1.88 trillion for a stimulus proposal, versus the $2.2 trillion plan put forth by House Democrats.

Still, traders have increasingly doubted that a deal might get inked and passed before the November election, injecting further uncertainty and volatility into markets this week. Pelosi told Bloomberg News on Tuesday that a deal would need to be written by the end of the week to have a shot at passing before the election. White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, for his part, told Fox Wednesday morning that negotiators were looking to get “some kind of deal in the next 48 hours or so.”

The Department of Labor released its weekly report on new jobless claims Thursday, which showed another 787,000 Americans filed for first-time unemployment insurance benefits, for a print much better than the 870,000 new claims expected. However, an increasing number of individuals exhausted state unemployment benefits and rolled onto longer-term pandemic-related assistance programs, underscoring the ongoing toll of the virus on the economy.

Thursday’s economic and earnings releases, however, are expected to take a back seat, with traders continuing to focus more heavily on the developments around stimulus talks, as well as the final presidential debate between President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden.

“Despite a number of economic and earnings releases on Thursday, the only thing that will matter is the ‘sound and fury’ of the debate and the stimulus talks,” BTIG strategist Julian Emanuel said in a note Wednesday.

4:03 p.m. ET: Dow gains 154 points, or 0.5% after Pelosi says negotiators are ‘just about there’ on stimulus agreement

Here were the main moves in markets as of 4:03 p.m. ET:

  • S&P 500 (^GSPC): +17.93 (+0.52%) to 3,453.49

  • Dow (^DJI): +152.84 (+0.54%) to 28,363.66

  • Nasdaq (^IXIC): +21.31 (+0.19%) to 11,506.01

  • Crude (CL=F): +$0.62 (+1.55%) to $40.65 a barrel

  • Gold (GC=F): -$22.60 (-1.17%) to $1,906.90 per ounce

  • 10-year Treasury (^TNX): +3.2 bps to yield 0.8480%

2:41 p.m. ET: Stocks jump after Pelosi suggests negotiators were closing in on a stimulus agreement

The three major indices traded higher with just over an hour to go in the regular session, and the Dow shook off earlier declines to add more than 180 points.

Here’s where the three major indices were trading Thursday afternoon:

  • S&P 500 (^GSPC): +19.33 points (+0.56%) to 3,454.89

  • Dow (^DJI): +183.09 points (+0.65%) to 28,393.61

  • Nasdaq (^IXIC): +22.6 points (+0.2%) to 11,508.43

11:44 a.m. ET: Stocks lose steam as stimulus uncertainty lingers

The three major indices traded choppily Thursday, as stimulus talks out of Washington looked increasingly unlikely to yield an agreement in time for the November election. Each of the three major indices traded slightly below the flat line Thursday late morning.

The information technology and consumer discretionary sectors lagged alongside the consumer staples sector, after Kimberly-Clark delivered disappointing profit guidance. Shares of Salesforce and Dow Inc. lagged in the 30-stock Dow Jones Industrial Average.

10:00 a.m. ET: Existing home sales rise for a fourth straight month in September, in another sign of housing market strength

Existing home sales jumped by a greater than expected 9.4% to an annualized rate of 6.54 million in September, according to the National Association of Realtors’ monthly report Thursday.

“Home sales traditionally taper off toward the end of the year, but in September they surged beyond what we normally see during this season,” Lawrence Yun, NAR’s chief economist, said in a statement. “I would attribute this jump to record-low interest rates and an abundance of buyers in the marketplace, including buyers of vacation homes given the greater flexibility to work from home.”

9:41 a.m. ET: Coca-Cola stems its sales decline, while Kimberly-Clark racks up costs

Consumer companies Coca-Cola (KO) and Kimberly-Clark (KMB) each reported quarterly results Thursday morning, offering more perspectives on the state of the consumer during the pandemic.

Coca-Cola beat consensus profit expectations and showed improving sales trends, with global unit case volumes down 4% during the quarter. At-home consumption still hasn’t fully made up for the lighter sales at restaurants and event venues with the pandemic still under way. Still, however, the margin of decline was much better than the 16% drop the company reported during the previous quarter.

Kimberly-Clark, meanwhile, continued to grow sales in its personal care and consumer tissue segments, but increasing manufacturing costs related to COVID-19 weighed on profitability. The company raised its full-year adjusted earnings per share guidance to between $7.50 and $7.65, but this still missed consensus estimates for $7.68, according to Bloomberg data.

Shares of Coca-Cola rose nearly 2% shortly after the opening bell, while Kimberly-Clark slid 7%.

9:37 a.m. ET: AT&T third-quarter results top expectations as wireless growth chugs along during pandemic

AT&T (T) posted better-than-expected third-quarter results, with adjusted earnings of 76 cents a penny ahead of estimates. Third-quarter revenue of $42.3 billion was down 5% over last year but beat the $41.7 billion consensus estimate, according to Bloomberg data. Shares jumped more than 5% shortly after market open.

AT&T noted that the COVID-19 pandemic impacted revenues across all of its business units, particularly WarnerMedia and its wireless service business, due to lower international roaming activity. Still, the carrier continued to bring on wireless members, with CEO John Stankey saying in a statement,“Wireless postpaid growth was the strongest that it’s been in years with one million net additions, including 645,000 phones.”

AT&T’s streaming offerings also grew during the pandemic, with HBO and HBO Max subscribers topping 38 million domestically and 57 million worldwide. HBO Max activations more than doubled over last quarter.

9:30 a.m. ET: Stocks open slightly higher after better than expected jobless claims

Here were the main moves in markets, as of 9:30 a.m. ET:

  • S&P 500 (^GSPC): +8.93 points (+0.26%) to 3,444.49

  • Dow (^DJI): +49.73 points (+0.18%) to 28,260.55

  • Nasdaq (^IXIC): +61.4 points (+0.53%) to 11,544.85

  • Crude (CL=F): +$0.33 (+0.82%) to $40.36 a barrel

  • Gold (GC=F): -$21.30 (-1.1%) to $1,908.20 per ounce

  • 10-year Treasury (^TNX): +1 bp to yield 0.826%

8:30 a.m. ET: Jobless claims fall more than expected last week

New weekly unemployment insurance claims declined more than expected for the week ended Oct. 17, dipping to 787,000 from the prior week’s downwardly revised 842,000. This marked the eighth straight week that new claims came in below 1 million, after peaking at nearly 7 million in late March during the first wave of the virus and furloughs in the U.S.

Continuing claims also fell more than expected, dropping below 9 million. However, the leg lower in continuing claims likely reflects not a rise in re-hiring, but rather an increase in the number of individuals exhausting regular state aid and moving to the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation program, which provides another 13 weeks of benefits. Unadjusted claims for Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation jumped by 509,823 to about 3.3 million during the week ended Oct. 3.

7:16 a.m. ET Thursday: Stock futures extend declines with stimulus still elusive

Here were the main moves in markets, as of 7:17 a.m. ET:

  • S&P 500 futures (ES=F): 3,426.25, down 6 points or 0.17%

  • Dow futures (YM=F): 28,088.00, down 46 points or 0.16%

  • Nasdaq futures (NQ=F): 11,675.5, down 15.75 points or 0.13%

  • Crude (CL=F): +$0.33 (+0.82%) to $40.36 a barrel

  • Gold (GC=F): -$10.30 (-0.53%) to $1,919.20 per ounce

  • 10-year Treasury (^TNX): -0.5 bps to yield 0.811%

6:08 p.m. ET Wednesday: Stock futures point lower

Here were the main moves in markets, as of 6:08 p.m. ET:

  • S&P 500 futures (ES=F): 3,427.75, down 4.75 points or 0.14%

  • Dow futures (YM=F): 28,109.00, down 25 points or 0.09%

  • Nasdaq futures (NQ=F): 11,664.5, down 26.75 points or 0.23%

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - SEPTEMBER 22:  People wear protective face masks outside Nasdaq in Times Square as the city continues Phase 4 of re-opening following restrictions imposed to slow the spread of coronavirus on September 22, 2020 in New York City. The fourth phase allows outdoor arts and entertainment, sporting events without fans and media production. (Photo by Noam Galai/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NEW YORK – SEPTEMBER 22: People wear protective face masks outside Nasdaq in Times Square as the city continues Phase 4 of re-opening following restrictions imposed to slow the spread of coronavirus on September 22, 2020 in New York City. The fourth phase allows outdoor arts and entertainment, sporting events without fans and media production. (Photo by Noam Galai/Getty Images)

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