Stocks ended lower Friday as growing fears over more economic damage from the coronavirus pandemic and the Treasury Department’s abrupt curtailing of emergency economic programs weighed on investors.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average ended off 220 points, or 0.8%, to 29,263 and the S&P 500 slid 0.7%. The Nasdaq turned negative in late trading to end down 0.4%. The S&P 500 fell 0.8% for the week.
U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said the pandemic lending programs at the Federal Reserve would expire on Dec. 31, causing a rift with the central bank just as coronavirus infections surge across the country and states resort to shutdowns to try to stem the spread of the virus.
In a letter to Fed Chairman Jerome Powell, Mnuchin asked for the return of $455 billion allocated to the Treasury under the CARES Act last spring, much of it set aside for Fed programs meant to buoy the economy.
Mnuchin said the programs had served their purpose and the funds instead should be available for Congress to reallocate.
The Fed voiced its displeasure with the decision, writing in an emailed statement that it “would prefer that the full suite of emergency facilities established during the coronavirus pandemic continue to serve their important role as a backstop for our still-strained and vulnerable economy.”
The disagreement between the Treasury and the Fed comes as more than 1 million new coronavirus cases have been reported over the past week, hospitalizations reached a record for a 10th day in a row and after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention urged Americans to avoid travel for Thanksgiving to mitigate the virus spread.
The rift also comes amid signals that Congress may resume long-stalled stimulus talks. Mnuchin said Friday he would try to revive the talks.
Pfizer (PFE) – Get Report and its German partner, BioNTech (BNTX) – Get Report, extended gains after the drugmakers said they would formally apply on Friday for emergency use authorization for their coronavirus vaccine candidate. Pfizer said the vaccine could be available for high-risk patients as early as December.
Pfizer shares ended up 1.4%, while BioNTech was up 9.6%.