Stock market news live updates: Stocks mixed ahead of Georgia runoff election results

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Stocks hugged the flat line Tuesday as investors awaited results from the Georgia Senate runoff elections and nervously eyed worsening COVID-19 trends in the U.S. and abroad.

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The Dow fluctuated between small gains and losses, after dropping 1.25% on Monday for its worst start to a year since 2016. The S&P 500 and Nasdaq were also roughly flat. Other risk assets performed more strongly, and U.S. crude oil prices (CL=F) jumped as much as 5.1% to more than $50 per barrel. Bitcoin (BTC-USD) hovered at more than $32,000.

Traders are closely watching developments around Georgia’s Senate runoffs, with these elections set to determine control over the chamber and the balance of power in Congress. So far, investors have largely assumed that Republicans will maintain control of the Senate, albeit with a very narrow majority, given the party’s recent tendency to win Senate seats especially in off-cycle elections. Still, polls so far have shown a razor thin lead for both Democratic candidates. Voting for the elections ends on Tuesday.

Georgia aside, Republicans so far have 50 seats in the Senate to Democrats’ 48, meaning that a Democratic sweep of both seats in the state would give them a majority, since Vice President-elect Kamala Harris would be able to cast tie-breaking votes.

Under a Republican-controlled Congress, President-elect Joe Biden would have limited latitude to advance many of his campaign promises, including raising corporate taxes and minimum wages, and unveiling reforms around education, housing and climate change, which could all impact various pockets of the markets. But under a unified Democratic government, a larger additional stimulus package that could further boost the economy in the near-term might transpire.

“[A Senate with a Democratic majority] would lead to greater fiscal stimulus — we would expect around $600bn more on top of the recently enacted $900bn — but would also likely mean tax increases to finance additional spending,” Goldman Sachs economists led by Jan Hatzius said in a note Tuesday. “Regarding the latter, we would expect that an evenly divided Senate would approve only a fraction of the tax increases the Biden campaign proposed.”

For markets, Oppenheimer strategist John Stoltzfus said in a note Monday he believed a Democratic sweep in Georgia could spark an as much as 10% decline in the S&P 500 from year-end closing prices.

Meanwhile, concerns around COVID-19 picked back up as cases resurged after a holiday lull. The average daily new cases reported across the country over the past seven days totaled more than 210,000, according to data from the New York Times, bringing the total number of infections in the U.S. to nearly 21 million.

The rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine has so far only trudged along. Though 15.4 million doses of the vaccines had been delivered to states as of Monday morning, just over 4.5 million initial doses had been administered. Still, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, suggested the U.S. would be able to ramp up vaccinations to 1 million per day in the next few months.

In the U.K., Prime Minister Boris Johnson ordered the whole country to return to a third lockdown through at least mid-February in an attempt to bring the unbridled spread of COVID-19 as well as the new variant under control. The new variant of the coronavirus originally found in the U.K. was also identified for the first time in New York, Governor Andrew Cuomo confirmed Monday, with the state joining California, Colorado and Florida in having a confirmed case of the more contagious version of the virus.

12:06 p.m. ET: Credit Suisse raises Apple price target amid strong iPhone 12 sales, but cites valuation concerns

Credit Suisse analysts including Matthew Cabral raised their price target on shares of Apple (AAPL), citing stronger demand trends for the higher-priced, newly launched iPhone 12. Their new price target of $120 a share – up from $106 previously – implies downside of 7% from Monday’s closing prices. The stock had run up more than 80% in 2020.

“Our tracking of iPhone 12 wait times shows a clear trend toward a better-than-expected mix of iPhone 12 Pro, with waits still extended at [greater than] 2 weeks more than two months post-launch vs. last year’s 11 Pro that hit supply/demand balance within ~6 weeks. The 12 Pro Max is also tracking well (albeit not as strong as the 12 Pro), with waits a bit better than last year’s cycle,” they said in a note. “Putting it all together, we now expect better mix to support stronger ASPs [average selling prices] and are raising our revenue estimates accordingly.”

Still, the analysts maintained a Neutral rating on the stock, noting that the stock is trading at 33x Wall Street’s calendar year 2021 earnings pre share estimate, meaning that Apple’s “valuation leaves little room for error.”


11:13 a.m. ET: Crude oil prices top $50 per barrel for the first time since February 2020

U.S. crude oil prices (CL=F) topped $50 per barrel for the first time since February 2020, as vaccine optimism gave traders hope of stronger energy demand in the coming months. Bloomberg also reported Tuesday that Saudi Arabia planned to conduct a voluntary oil output cut next month, citing unnamed people familiar with the matter.

February contracts for U.S. West Texas Intermediate rose as much as 5.1% to $50.05 per barrel Tuesday morning. This brought oil prices’ gain since the beginning of December to more than 10%.

At their worst point last year, oil prices dropped to as low as negative $37.63 per barrel at settlement, as the price of storing a barrel of oil outweighed the value markets assigned to the commodity amid the coronavirus pandemic.


10:00 a.m. ET: Manufacturing sector expands at fastest rate in two years: ISM

Activity in the U.S. manufacturing sector expanded for an eighth straight month and at the fastest pace since 2018, the Institute for Supply Management (ISM) reported Tuesday, in a testament to the rebound in the goods-producing industries in the economy.

ISM’s manufacturing purchasing managers’ index (PMI) rose to 60.7 in December from 57.5 in November, topping estimates for a rise to 56.8, according to Bloomberg data. Readings above the neutral level of 50.0 indicate expansion of a sector.

“The manufacturing economy continued its recovery in December,” Timothy Fiore, chair of ISM’s Manufacturing Business Survey Committee, said in a statement. “Survey Committee members reported that their companies and suppliers continue to operate in reconfigured factories, but absenteeism, short-term shutdowns to sanitize facilities and difficulties in returning and hiring workers are causing strains that are limiting manufacturing growth potential. However, panel sentiment remains optimistic (three positive comments for every cautious comment), an improvement compared to November.”


9:30 a.m. ET: Stocks open mostly higher

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

  • S&P 500 (^GSPC): +0.78 points (+0.02%) to 3,701.43

  • Dow (^DJI): +26.77 points (+0.09%) to 30,250.66

  • Nasdaq (^IXIC): -9.38 points (-0.09%) to 12,688.06

  • Crude (CL=F): +$1.18 (+2.48%) to $48.80 a barrel

  • Gold (GC=F): +$8.90 (+0.46%) to $1,955.50 per ounce

  • 10-year Treasury (^TNX): +1.6 bps to yield 0.933%


8:33 a.m. ET: ‘Time to avoid the WFH stocks’: Jefferies

The stay-at-home stocks that surged in 2020 are unlikely to have another year of outperformance in 2021 as long as the vaccine roll-out continues roughly according to plan and stay-in-place restrictions are gradually lifted, according to Jefferies equity strategist Sean Darby.

“As the vaccines get rolled out, it will be the speed of inoculation that will become critical for markets,” Darby said in a note Tuesday. “If successful, the unloved parts of the equity market will be refranchised in 2021 while laggard bourses will enjoy ‘the first being last and the last being first’. Time to avoid the WFH [work-from-home] stocks.”

Last year, shares of companies with business models conducive to people working and going to school from home rallied strongly. Shares of Zoom (ZM) rose nearly 400%, Peloton (PTON) rose 430%, Etsy (ETSY) jumped 300% and Teladoc Health (TDOC) more than doubled. Aside from Zoom, each of these stocks underperformed the market on Monday with declines of more than 3% each.


7:20 a.m. ET Tuesday: Stock futures drift ahead of Georgia elections

Here were the main moves in markets, as of 7:20 a.m. ET Tuesday:

  • S&P 500 futures (ES=F): 3,690.5, down 1.75 points or 0.05%

  • Dow futures (YM=F): 30,081.00, down 23 points or 0.04%

  • Nasdaq futures (NQ=F): 12,637.50, down 12 points or 0.09%

  • Crude (CL=F): +$0.90 (+1.89%) to $48.52 a barrel

  • Gold (GC=F): +$6.50 (+0.33%) to $1,953.10 per ounce

  • 10-year Treasury (^TNX): +1.5 bps to yield 0.932%


6:13 p.m. ET Monday: Stock futures tick down after selloff

Here were the main moves in markets, as of 6:13 p.m. ET Monday:

  • S&P 500 futures (ES=F): 3,690.5, down 1.75 points or 0.05%

  • Dow futures (YM=F): 30,081.00, down 23 points or 0.04%

  • Nasdaq futures (NQ=F): 12,637.50, down 12 points or 0.09%

© Provided by Yahoo! Finance The delivery worker from Amazon’s Fresh Direct passes the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) on April 20, 2020 at Wall Street in New York City. – Wall Street opened lower on Monday as traders grappled with a drop in oil prices to 22-year lows as the coronavirus pandemic sapped demand for energy. The Dow Jones Industrial Average was down 1.8 percent to 23,798.01 about 10 minutes into the trading session.The broad-based S&P 500 had declined 1.3 percent to 2,835.08, while the tech-rich Nasdaq had fallen 0.7 percent to 8,588.66. (Photo by Johannes EISELE / AFP) (Photo by JOHANNES EISELE/AFP via Getty Images)


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