Dow, S&P 500 close higher, but pare gains amid U.S. Capitol protests

Click to play video 'U.S. election: Congress preparing to certify Biden presidential win as protests erupt in Washington, D.C.'

Washington, D.C. is on high alert Wednesday morning after police arrested half a dozen people during pro-Trump protests that saw thousands march through the streets. More protests are expected today as Congress prepares to certify Joe Biden’s presidential victory. Overnight, NBC declared a winner in one of Georgia’s two senate races, projecting Democrat Raphael Warnock had beat Republican incumbent Kelly Loeffler. The other race between David Perdue and Jon Ossoff is too close to call as votes are still being counted.

The Dow and the S&P 500 ended higher, soaring to all-time highs on Wednesday, as investors piled into financial and industrial stocks on bets a Democratic sweep in Georgia would lead to more fiscal stimulus and infrastructure spending.

But Wall Street pared earlier gains and the Nasdaq index closed lower after swarms of protesters stormed the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday as they sought to force Congress to undo President Donald Trump’s election loss to Joe Biden. Lawmakers evacuated after Trump supporters breached the building as police officers stood watch. Some police responded with drawn guns and tear gas.

“It hasn’t been a sharp market drop. There have been buyers coming in as well. This is a bit shocking visually to see this unfold on television,” said Tim Ghriskey, chief investment strategist at Inverness Counsel in New York.

Before the pro-Trump protests, financials hit a 1-year high and were still higher on the day, while materials , industrial and energy sectors held their gains.

Rate-sensitive bank shares also rose, tracking a surge in the benchmark 10-year U.S. Treasury yield above 1 per cent.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed 437.8 points higher, or 1.44 per cent, to 30,829.4, the S&P 500 gained 21.28 points, or 0.57 per cent, to 3,748.14 and the Nasdaq Composite dropped 78.17 points, or 0.61 per cent, to 12,740.79.

Democrats won one U.S. Senate race in Georgia and led in another, moving closer to a surprise sweep in a former Republican stronghold that would give them control of Congress and the power to advance President-elect Joe Biden’s policy goals. A final outcome is not expected until later on Wednesday.

As this developed, U.S. Vice President Mike Pence opened a joint session of Congress to formally certify Democratic President-elect Joe Biden’s victory, rejecting President Donald Trump’s demand that he unilaterally reject electoral votes.

A Democrat-controlled Senate, meanwhile, typically ushers in increased fiscal spending while raising the chances of tax hikes and tougher regulation, and would be a net positive for economic growth globally and thus for most risk assets.

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“People are focused on the stimulus that will come,” said Tom Martin, senior portfolio manager, at GLOBALT Investments in Atlanta. “The question is how big will that be and what would be contained in it. But anytime you have additional money to be spent, that’s a positive for the markets.”

The Russell 1000 value index, which is heavily weighted toward cyclical sectors, rose 2.5 per cent, while the growth index, with a large tech company weighting, was down 1.1 per cent.

Increased risk of antitrust scrutiny of Big Tech pressured shares of companies, with Apple Inc, Microsoft Corp , Amazon.com Inc, Google-parent Alphabet Inc and Facebook Inc falling.

Tesla Inc was the only major technology stock trading 2.9 per cent higher at $755.98.

The small-cap Russell 2000 index jumped four per cent after earlier hitting a record high.

Hopes of a vaccine-powered economic recovery in 2021 pushed Wall Street’s main indexes to record highs in late-December, with sectors that had previously lagged, including banks, industrials and energy, fueling the rally.

AmerisourceBergen Corp gained 8.6 per cent after the U.S. drug wholesaler said it would buy Walgreens Boots Alliance’s drug distribution business for $6.5 billion to expand in Europe. Dow component Walgreens rose 4.5 per cent.

Advancing issues outnumbered declining ones on the NYSE by a 1.72-to-1 ratio; on Nasdaq, a 1.64-to-1 ratio favored advancers.

The S&P 500 posted 89 new 52-week highs and no new lows; the Nasdaq Composite recorded 318 new highs and 9 new lows.

Volume on U.S. exchanges hit 16.6 billion shares on Wednesday, compared with the 11.39 billion average for the full session over the last 20 trading days.

(Reporting by Gertrude Chavez-Dreyfuss; Additional reporting by Sinead Carew in New York; Editing by Aurora Ellis)

© 2021 Reuters

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