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Elections 2020: Stocks rise, tech shares rally as investors follow 2020 election results

·Reporter
·15 min read
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Stocks rose Wednesday as investors took in the flow of results for the 2020 election, which has so far produced no clear signs of a victor for the White House.

[Click here to read what’s moving markets heading into Thursday, Nov. 5]

As of market close, the S&P 500 was higher by 2.2%, and the Nasdaq outperformed with a gain of about 3.9%. The Dow shook off earlier declines from the overnight session to rise more than 1.3%, to add about 370 points.

The results so far point to a presidential race that remains too close to call, with a number of consequential battleground states, including Pennsylvania, still unlikely to produce results for the next couple of days.

As of Wednesday afternoon, former Vice President Joe Biden had 248 electoral votes and President Donald Trump had 214, according to the Associated Press. Six states had not yet been called. Candidates require 270 electoral votes to be named the winner of the election.

  • States called for Trump: Ky., W. Va., S.C., Ala., Miss., Tenn., Okla., Ark., Ind., N.D., S.D., Wyo., La., Neb. (4 of 5 electoral votes), Kan., Mo., Idaho, Utah, Ohio, Iowa, Mont., Fla., Texas

  • States called for Biden: Vt., Va., Conn., Del., Ill., Md., Mass., N.J., R.I., N.Y., N.M., D.C., Colo., N.H., Calif., Ore., Wash., Hawaii, Minn., Ariz., Maine (3 of 4 electoral votes), Wis.

The flurry of incoming results stirred up volatility during the overnight session. Contracts on the major equity indices opened higher as overnight trading began, but gains in the Dow and S&P 500 futures flattened as the race tightened, including when the Associated Press projected Trump would win the swing state of Florida, which a number of pundits believed would go to Biden. Other states that had been viewed as toss-ups ended up tilting in Biden’s favor, including Arizona, which Trump had won in 2016.

The Nasdaq, however, held decidedly higher overnight and into Wednesday. At about 10:15 p.m. ET Tuesday, Nasdaq futures surged nearly 4% to trigger a circuit breaker to cap further gains. The index held higher by more than 2.5% as of market open, with traders piling into tech shares that throughout much of the pandemic had served as a safe haven sector amid uncertainty over the economic outlook.

In the bond market, U.S. Treasury yields tumbled across the long end of the curve to unwind much of their advance from their past couple weeks. The 10-year Treasury yield dipped below 80 basis points Wednesday morning after earlier jumping above 90 basis points, as investors pulled back their expectations for a Democratic sweep that would likely have brought about bigger government spending. With some Senate races still needing to be settled, Democrats were tracking Wednesday morning to net a gain of just one seat in the Senate, whereas at least three were needed to take majority control of the chamber.

“Two things are certain – the Blue Wave has evaporated and the polls have been horribly wrong – again,” Sean Darby, Jefferies global equity strategist, wrote in a note Wednesday morning. “Voting has not matched polled intentions. As we write, it is still too close to tall the winner but it seems the Republicans will hold the Senate and the Democrats the House. It is a murky world for equity outcomes. We expect the S&P 500 to churn through the week.”

The apparent lack of a “Blue Wave” outcome also pushed health-care stocks to outperform on Wednesday amid belief that drug-makers and insurers would be shielded from tougher legislation like a significant public option or higher corporate taxes that might have come with a Democratically controlled Senate and White House. The health-care sector led the S&P 500 higher, and UnitedHealth Group (UNH) and Amgen (AMGN) strongly outperformed in the 30-stock Dow.

Overseas, European stocks also traded with volatility and slid at the open before cutting losses and pushing higher, after Trump prematurely and falsely claimed to have won the election in a late-night address in the White House.

“This is a fraud on the American republic. This is an embarrassment to our country,” Trump said. “We were getting ready to win this election. Frankly, we did win this election.”

Trump, who has previously challenged the veracity of mail-in voting, said he would be “going to the U.S. Supreme Court” over the results of the election, opening up the possibility of a drawn-out, contested election that market participants had braced for heading into the results. Biden’s campaign, for its party, has suggested it would be willing to fight Trump in court.

With stocks trending mostly higher regardless, markets have remained “remarkably calm and are surprisingly not really pricing much risk, or concerns around a long contested battle ahead,” said Deutsche Bank analysts including Jim Reid in an overnight note. “Fiscal stimulus looks a longer way off at the moment than it did last night,” they added.

But other experts warned that the lingering uncertainty over the election result could spark volatility in markets for the days to come.

“A conclusive result could take a few days or more, potentially spurring market volatility and leaving open the possibility of a contested result,” analysts from BlackRock Investment Institute wrote in a note Wednesday morning. “We prefer to look through any volatility and stay with high-conviction positions amid any selloffs in risk assets. Likely low trading volumes in this period could magnify market moves.”

The election came against an increasingly dire pandemic situation in the United States. Nearly 92,000 new cases were reported across the country on Tuesday, for the second-highest daily total since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, according to data cited by the Wall Street Journal. Well over 9 million cases in total have been recorded since the start of the pandemic in the U.S., and more than 230,000 deaths have resulted across the country. And the economic consequences of the virus have been severe: About 11 million jobs have been lost since the start of the pandemic, and the unemployment rate has held at an elevated near-8%.

4:05 p.m. ET: Tech stocks lead market rally as investors await election results, Nasdaq jumps 3.9% for best one-day gain since April

Here were the main moves in markets as of 4:05 p.m. ET:

  • S&P 500 (^GSPC): +74.28 (+2.20%) to 3,443.44

  • Dow (^DJI): +367.63 (+1.34%) to 27,847.66

  • Nasdaq (^IXIC): +430.21 (+3.85%) to 11,590.78

  • Crude (CL=F): +$1.29 (+3.43%) to $38.95 a barrel

  • Gold (GC=F): -$7.30 (-0.38%) to $1,903.10 per ounce

  • 10-year Treasury (^TNX): -11.4 bps to yield 0.7680%

2:26 p.m. ET: AP projects Biden will win Wisconsin, giving him another 10 electoral votes

The Associated Press Wednesday afternoon called the battleground state of Wisconsin in favor of Biden, giving the former vice president another 10 electoral votes and bringing his tally to 248 of the 270 needed to be named the victor of the White House. Trump’s electoral votes stand at 214.

1:28 p.m. ET: Stocks hold sharply higher with vote tabulations still under way

The three major indices continued to rally Wednesday afternoon as traders watched for signals over which candidate might race ahead to 270 electoral votes. As of Wednesday afternoon, results for Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Alaska had not yet been called.

Here were the main moves in markets, as of 1:28 p.m. ET:

  • S&P 500 (^GSPC): +101.3 points (+3.01%) to 3,470.46

  • Dow (^DJI): +694.01 points (+2.53%) to 29,174.04

  • Nasdaq (^IXIC): +452.2 points (+4.06%) to 11,614.58

  • Crude (CL=F): +$1.28 (+3.4%) to $38.94 a barrel

  • Gold (GC=F): -$14.80 (-0.77%) to $1,895.60 per ounce

  • 10-year Treasury (^TNX): -10.6 bps to yield 0.775%

10:22 a.m. ET: Nasdaq extends gain to more than 4% as tech shares surge, Dow gains 600+ points

The three major indices rallied strongly Wednesday morning as investors eyed the incoming results from key states in the election.

The Nasdaq extended its gain to more than 4%, as each of Amazon, Facebook, Alphabet, Apple, Netflix and Microsoft surged. Chipmakers jumped, and the Philadelphia Semiconductor ETF jumped nearly 3%.

Health-care stocks led in the 30-stock Dow, with UnitedHealth Group rallying 9% and Amgen up more than 6%. Industrials including Caterpillar and Dow Inc. The index was up more than 550 points, or 2%.

The health-care sector also led the more than 2.8% jump in the S&P 500 as of Wednesday morning. The communication services and information technology sectors also outperformed.

10:00 a.m. ET: ISM service index dips more than expected in October as pandemic concerns mount

Other election-unrelated economic data releases Wednesday morning included the Institute for Supply Management’s October services index, which showed a starker deceleration in service sector activity than was expected for the month.

The headline index declined to 56.6 from 57.8 in September, whereas a tick down to 57.5 had been anticipated, according to Bloomberg consensus data. Readings above the neutral level of 50.0 indicate expansion in a sector. The service sector had expanded in each of the past five months, based on ISM’s index.

“There has been a slight pull back in the rate of growth in the services sector,” Anthony Nieves, chair of the ISM services business survey committee, said in a statement. “Respondents’ comments are cautiously optimistic about business conditions and the economy. There is a degree of uncertainty due to the pandemic, capacity constraints, logistics and the elections.”

9:55 a.m. ET: These are the seven states that still haven’t been called

Election night came and went with an inconclusive outcome over which candidate would be sworn in as president this January. A number of key states’ results remain uncertain and have not yet been called by the Associated Press, though tallies so far have given some indication of the leaning of results.

  • Nevada (6): Biden has a lead here, but results will take at least another day to be certified. Nevada’s Elections Division announced earlier Wednesday morning it would put off tabulating the balance of results until Thursday morning local time.

  • Wisconsin (10): Biden has a lead here, and a call is expected for this morning.

  • Michigan (16): Biden narrowly pulled ahead earlier in the 9 a.m. ET hour in this state, and the incoming mail-in votes being tabulated are anticipated to widen his lead. Trump won this state by a narrow margin in 2016.

  • Pennsylvania (20): Trump has the lead, after turning the state red in 2016. However, state officials have signaled tabulations could take until Friday, and outstanding mail ballots are expected to favor Democrats.

  • Alaska (3): Trump has a comfortable lead as of Wednesday morning, and the state has historically favored Republican presidential candidates.

  • Georgia (16): Trump leads here, and Georgia’s Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger suggested in a media interview Wednesday morning that results would become available by the end of the day.

  • North Carolina (15): Trump leads here after winning the battleground state in 2016.

9:30 a.m. ET: Stocks open higher with election outcome still unclear

Stocks held onto overnight gains Wednesday morning as investors digested the rapidly changing outlook on the election outcome. Tech stocks led strongly to the upside Here were the main moves in markets, as of 9:30 a.m. ET:

  • S&P 500 (^GSPC): +53.15 points (+1.58%) to 3,422.31

  • Dow (^DJI): +230.98 points (+0.84%) to 27,711.01

  • Nasdaq (^IXIC): +297.30 points (+2.66%) to 11,466.93

  • Crude (CL=F): +$0.89 (+2.36%) to $38.55 a barrel

  • Gold (GC=F): -$0.60 (-0.03%) to $1,909.80 per ounce

  • 10-year Treasury (^TNX): -11 bps to yield 0.711%

8:20 a.m. ET: Private sector employment grew by a disappointing 365,000 positions in October: ADP

Amid the flurry of election-related updates, investors Wednesday morning also received the first of three major reports on the state of the U.S. labor market.

ADP’s closely watched report on private payrolls sharply missed expectations for October, with the print showing private sector employers added back just 365,000 jobs for the month. Consensus economists had been looking for a rise of 643,000, after September’s upwardly revised 753,000 job gains in September.

Service-sector employers continued to make up the bulk of payrolls gains, with service-providing positions increasing by a net 348,000 in October, according to ADP. Leisure and hospitality jobs, which had been deeply impacted by stay-in-place orders this spring, grew by 125,000, followed closely by education and health services positions with a rise of 79,000. In the goods-producing sector, private payrolls rose by a net 17,000 as each of manufacturing, construction and mining positions rose.

On Thursday, the Department of Labor is set to release its latest report on weekly jobless claims, which is also expected to reflect a decelerating recovery in the labor market. The DOL will release its monthly non-farm payrolls report for October on Friday, which is expected to show private and government payrolls rose by a net 600,000 for the month after September’s rise of 661,000.

7:55 a.m. ET: Stock futures push higher as outcome remains uncertain in key states

Contracts on the three major indices turned higher as the regular trading day Wednesday neared, though the outcome of the election remained uncertain.

Here were the main moves in markets, as of 7:55 a.m. ET:

  • S&P 500 futures (ES=F): 3,404.25, up 42.75 points or 1.27%

  • Dow futures (YM=F): 27,487.00, up 111 points or 0.41%

  • Nasdaq futures (NQ=F): 11,605.5, up 339.75 points or 3.02%

  • Crude (CL=F): +$0.87 (+2.31%) to $38.53 a barrel

  • Gold (GC=F): -$2.50 (-0.13%) to $1,907.90 per ounce

  • 10-year Treasury (^TNX): -7.1 bps to yield 0.81%

6:31 a.m. ET: Uber, Lyft shares surge after Prop 22 passes in California

Shares of ride-hailing companies Uber (UBER) and Lyft (LYFT) jumped 11% and 15%, respectively, in early trading Wednesday morning after a ballot initiative in California was passed to allow them to continue classifying their drivers as contractors with flexibility over their hours rather than employees eligible for benefits. About 58% of 11 million voters cast ballots in favor of Prop 22, according to the Associated Press.

“With the controversial AB5 legislation enacted in the State of California which was focused on classifying drivers as employees and not contractors, in essence the underlying business models for Uber and Lyft were hanging in the balance if Prop 22 did not pass in California to keep the contractor model,” analyst Dan Ives of WedBush wrote in a note early Wednesday. “To this point, 58% of voters in California voted YES and passed Prop 22 which will send a ripple impact as investors were worried if Prop 22 did not pass this would significantly impact the core DNA of the Gig Economy and ultimately the revenue model for Lyft and Uber.”

“With Lyft deriving roughly 16% of revenues from California and Uber roughly 5%, both companies were looking at potentially leaving the state or significantly altering its business model if this legislation did not pass during voting yesterday,” Ives added.

6:01 a.m. ET: Nevada tables election updates until Thursday

Nevada, a swing state that was anticipated to go narrowly to Biden, is set to hold off on further election results until Thursday morning, according to a Twitter update from the Elections Division of the Nevada Secretary of State. Biden’s lead as of Wednesday morning was of just about 8,000 votes in the state. Trump lost Nevada by only a slim margin in 2016. The Associated Press has not called the results for Nevada, which carries 6 electoral votes.

4:50 a.m. ET Wednesday: Stock futures fluctuate with election results uncertain

Here were the main moves in markets, as of 4:50 a.m. ET Wednesday

  • S&P 500 futures (ES=F): 3,382.75, up 21.25 points or 0.63%

  • Dow futures (YM=F): 27,342.00, down 34 points or 0.12%

  • Nasdaq futures (NQ=F): 11,552.00, up 286.25 points or 2.54%

  • Crude (CL=F): +$0.58 (+1.54%) to $38.24 a barrel

  • Gold (GC=F): -$17.50(-0.92%) to $1,892.90 per ounce

  • 10-year Treasury (^TNX): -8.5 bps to yield 0.796%

The White House is seen at sunrise during the election day, in Washington, U.S., November 3, 2020. REUTERS/Hannah McKay     TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
The White House is seen at sunrise during the election day, in Washington, U.S., November 3, 2020. REUTERS/Hannah McKay TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY

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