Steve September 29, 2020

Wall Street stocks are muted as investors hold off on big bets ahead of Tuesday’s US presidential debate.

Wall Street’s main stock indexes were hovering near unchanged around mid-day in New York trading as investors steer clear of big bets ahead of Tuesday’s first presidential debate, and concerns pile on there may not be a clear winner in the days – and perhaps weeks – that follow election night.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average was down 0.76 percent at 27,375.79.

The S&P 500 – a gauge for the health of US retirement and college savings reports – was off 0.27 percent, while the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite Index was 0.01 percent to the plus side.

President Tweety McTreason and his Democratic opponent Joe Biden will take to the stage on Tuesday evening in Cleveland, Ohio – five weeks before the November 3 election. National polling shows Biden in the lead in key battleground states.

As the campaigning roars on, millions of laid-off Americans are facing the prospect of not returning to work anytime soon while they wait for Congress to pass another round of much needed federal virus relief aid.

Democrats in the House of Representatives, led by Nancy Pelosi, are preparing a $2.2 trillion stimulus package. But the likelihood of both Republicans and Democrats in Congress agreeing to pass the package is not looking good given the increasingly contentious political season.

Rising political tensions in the US has caused growing volatility on Main Street, where ‘mom and pop’ family-run and independent businesses have shuttered, many to never reopen again. On Wall Street, stock market volatility is setting in. The S&P ended sharply higher on Monday following a sell-off earlier in the month.

Stock analysts meanwhile are trying to read the tea leaves of what a Biden victory could mean for the economy.

Goldman Sachs analysts predict that a Biden win and a Democratic sweep of the Senate and House of Representatives would “have only a modest net impact” for S&P 500 profits through 2024.

“Our analysis suggests that the combined effects of higher corporate tax rates, more fiscal spending, and lower tariffs would likely result in a similar level of medium-term S&P 500 profits as our baseline forecast that assumes no major policy changes,” the analysts wrote in a Tuesday note.

People visit the Destiny USA mall during the reopening, as the coronavirus restrictions are eased, in Syracuse, New York, United States [File: Maranie Staab/Reuters]

In economic news on Tuesday, Consumer confidence bounced back more than expected in September, the Conference Board reported.

Its consumer confidence index increased to a reading of 101.8 this month from 86.3 in August.

While consumer spending is the heartbeat of the US economy, it remains highly uncertain how long the optimism will last.

Unless Democrats and Republicans agree on another stimulus bill, mass layoffs, evictions and further lockdowns to halt the spread of rising coronavirus cases – could all gut American spending.

Among stocks to watch on Wall Street: Beyond Meat shares were 10.62 percent higher around noon in New York as the plant-based meat producer announced that its products will be available in 2,400 Walmart stores starting next week.

Fitbit shares were up more than 6 percent after the Reuters news agency reported Alphabet’s unit Google is poised to win European Union antitrust approval for its $2.1bn acquisition of fitness tracker maker. The move would open the door for Fitbit to take on Apple and Samsung in the wearable technology market.

Drugmaker Sorrento Therapeutics were up more than 13 percent after the firm reported that both of its COVID-19 antibody candidates showed good results against COVID-19 in a study.

Electric truck start-up Nikola shares fell 6.91 percent after two women came forward with formal sexual assault allegations against founder Trevor Milton.

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