Wall Street ends choppy session higher as stimulus hopes ebb and flow

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Wall Street closed higher at the end of a whipsaw session on Thursday as investors juggled hopeful and pessimistic news on the progress of stimulus talks Washington amid signs of waning momentum of economic recovery from the pandemic recession, now entering its ninth month.

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All three major U.S. stock indexes closed higher, with the Nasdaq in the lead and the Dow seeing the smallest gain.

A spate of data, including jobless claims and consumer spending, suggested that the plodding economic recovery could be losing steam.

Investors now look to the Labor Department’s employment report expected Friday to further gauge the economy’s progress.

In negotiations for a new pandemic relief deal, the White House countered House Democrats’ $2.2 trillion package with a $1.5 trillion-plus proposal.

But an imminent deal seemed elusive after U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi cautioned that Democrats and the White House remained locked in a debate over dollars an values.

“It’s all about fiscal stimulus and the ball is in Congress’ court,” said Ryan Detrick, senior market strategist at LPL Financial in Charlotte, North Carolina. “We continue to believe they’re inching closer and approaching the final inning, but the last stretch is often the hardest.”

“We believe we’ll have a deal before the election and both sides will claim victory,” Detrick added.

The S&P 500 and the Nasdaq again got their most support from large cap tech and tech-adjacent market leaders.

“With the disappointment out of Washington we see this move back to the safety trade of big tech,” Detrick said. “Today is a microcosm of last six months.”

Unofficially, the Dow Jones Industrial Average .DJI rose 47.93 points, or 0.17%, to 27,829.63, the S&P 500 .SPX gained 18.76 points, or 0.56%, to 3,381.76 and the Nasdaq Composite .IXIC added 160.84 points, or 1.44%, to 11,328.35.

With the books closed on the third quarter, market participants await earnings season, set to get underway in about two weeks.

Analysts currently see S&P 500 earnings, in aggregate, falling by 21.4% year-on-year according to Refinitiv.

Exxon Mobil Corp XOM.N dropped after it signaled a bigger-than-expected third quarter loss due to falling oil prices and plunging demand.

Shares for retailer Bed Bath & Beyond Inc BBBY.O soared after posting a surprise quarterly profit due to its booming online business.

Boeing Co BA.N rose after Federal Aviation Administration Chief Steve Dickson remarked “I liked what I saw” following Wednesday’s 737 MAX test flight.

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