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Stock market news live updates: Stocks mixed, Nasdaq reaches record high after Congress approves virus relief package

Emily McCormick
·Reporter
·9 min read

Stocks were mixed Tuesday as investors weighed ongoing virus concerns against lawmakers’ approval of a long-awaited virus relief package, offering funds to help support many of the individuals and businesses hardest-hit by the coronavirus pandemic.

[Click here to read what’s moving markets heading into Wednesday, December 23]

The Dow fell more than 200 points, or 0.7%, and the S&P 500 also ticked lower. The Nasdaq rose 0.5% to a record closing high.

A day earlier, the Dow had shed more than 400 points, or 1.4%, before recovering losses to end slightly higher during a volatile session. Concerns over a new strain of the coronavirus identified in the UK, and a host of new travel restrictions to and from the region that ensued, were at the center of investor jitters.

However, with much still to be uncovered about the virulence of the coronavirus variant, investors at least temporarily turned their attention to Washington. Congress passed a 5,593-page coronavirus relief bill and government spending bill for the fiscal year, after reaching an agreement on the legislation over the weekend.

The virus relief package is set to include another round of $600 stimulus checks to Americans, $300 per week in augmented federal unemployment insurance for unemployed individuals, more than $300 billion in aid for small businesses including through the Paycheck Protection Program, and tens of billions of dollars across other provisions including rental assistance, vaccine distribution funds and broadband support.

“The biggest single component of the new COVID relief bill is the re-funding of the Paycheck Protection Program, with a total of $284 billion,” Ian Shepherdson of Pantheon Macroeconomics said in a note Monday evening. “It worked – and will work again – by offering loans to small businesses based on the size of their payrolls.”

“With services jobs now in free fall, according to the alarming daily data from Homebase, this can’t come a second too soon, though in reality firms likely won’t be able to make applications under the new program for another couple weeks,” he added. “Still, this is a big step forward, helping bridge the gap between the third wave-ravaged services economy and the post-pandemic world of the spring.”

All told, the package came in at about $900 billion, or less than half the size of the $2.2 trillion CARES Act from the spring. Democratic lawmakers have suggested the bill is just the start of a more comprehensive suite of fiscal stimulus, however, once President-elect Joe Biden takes office.

“I suspect incoming President Joe Biden will be primarily focused on creating work for the 10 million people who lost their jobs due to the pandemic and are yet to find employment,” James Knightley, ING chief international economist, wrote in a note Tuesday morning. “That means we are likely to see another substantial fiscal stimulus focused on infrastructure and energy. The outcome of the two Georgia Senate seat run-off elections on January 5 will determine the scale.”

4:04 p.m. ET: Stocks end mixed, Nasdaq reaches record closing high as investors weigh virus concerns against passage of new stimulus package

Here were the main moves in markets as of 4:04 p.m. ET:

  • S&P 500 (^GSPC): -7.67 (-0.21%) to 3,687.25

  • Dow (^DJI): -200.94 (-0.67%) to 30,015.51

  • Nasdaq (^IXIC): +65.40 (+0.51%) to 12,807.92

  • Crude (CL=F): -$1.07 (-2.23%) to $46.90 a barrel

  • Gold (GC=F): -$18.10 (-0.96%) to $1,864.70 per ounce

  • 10-year Treasury (^TNX): -2.3 bps to yield 0.9180%

2:46 p.m. ET: Walmart shares fall after DOJ files lawsuit against company, alleging unlawful distribution of opioids amid crisis

Walmart (WMT) shares sank 1.5% in intraday trading Tuesday after the U.S. Justice Department said it filed a civil complaint against the retailer alleging it unlawfully dispensed and distributed prescription opioids from its pharmacies at the height of the opioid crisis.

The Justice Department added in a statement it is seeking civil penalties that could total in the billions of dollars, as well as injunctive relief.

“As a pharmacy that fills prescriptions for controlled substances, Walmart has an obligation to fill only those prescriptions that are legitimate,” Seth DuCharme, acting U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of New York, said in a statement. “As a wholesale drug distributor, Walmart also had an obligation to notify DEA [Drug Enforcement Agency] of suspicious orders of controlled substances. Walmart failed to comply with both of its obligations, and thereby failed in its responsibility to prevent the diversion of controlled substances.”

Shares of peer pharmacy companies including CVS (CVS) and Walgreens (WBA) also fell in intraday trading.

12:15 p.m. ET: S&P 500, Dow decline while Nasdaq holds positive

Here were the main moves in markets, as of 12:15 p.m. ET:

  • S&P 500 (^GSPC): -5.12 points (-0.14%) to 3,689.80

  • Dow (^DJI): -117.16 points (-0.39%) to 30,099.29

  • Nasdaq (^IXIC): +26.62 points (+0.21%) to 12,769.77

  • Crude (CL=F): -$0.74 (-1.54%) to $47.23 a barrel

  • Gold (GC=F): -$13.50 (-0.72%) to $1,869.30 per ounce

  • 10-year Treasury (^TNX): -1.8 bps to yield 0.923%

10:10 a.m. ET: Existing home sales dropped more than expected in November, ending a five-month streak of increases

Existing home sales fell 2.5% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 6.69 million, according to the National Association of Realtors’ monthly report. In October, existing home sales had risen 4.4% to an annual rate of 6.86 million.

“Home sales in November took a marginal step back, but sales for all of 2020 are already on pace to surpass last year's levels," Lawrence Yun, NAR's chief economist, said in a statement.

“Circumstances are far from being back to the pre-pandemic normal," he added. "However, the latest stimulus package and with the vaccine distribution underway, and a very strong demand for homeownership still prevalent, robust growth is forthcoming for 2021."

10:00 a.m. ET: Consumer confidence unexpectedly tumbled in December: Conference Board

Consumer confidence sank in December amid a jump in COVID-19 cases, the Conference Board reported Tuesday morning, with the headline confidence index falling to 88.6 from November’s downwardly revised print of 92.9. Consensus economists had expected the index to rise to 97.0, according to Bloomberg data.

The decline came as a subindex tracking consumers’ assessments of current conditions sank to 90.3 from 105.9. A subindex tracking future expectations, however, rose to 87.5 from 84.3 in November.

“Consumers’ assessment of current conditions deteriorated sharply in December, as the resurgence of COVID-19 remains a drag on confidence,” Lynn Franco, senior director of economic indicators at The Conference Board, said in a statement. “As a result, consumers’ vacation intentions, which had notably improved in October, have retreated. On the flip side, as consumers continue to hunker down at home, intentions to purchase appliances have risen. Overall, it appears that growth has weakened further in Q4, and consumers do not foresee the economy gaining any significant momentum in early 2021.”

9:32 a.m. ET: Stocks open mixed

Here were the main moves in markets, as of 9:32 a.m. ET:

  • S&P 500 (^GSPC): -4.82 points (-0.13%) to 3,690.1

  • Dow (^DJI): -78.27 points (-0.26%) to 30,138.18

  • Nasdaq (^IXIC): +35.61 points (+0.28%) to 12,780.12

  • Crude (CL=F): -$0.73 (-1.52%) to $47.24 a barrel

  • Gold (GC=F): +$3.50 (+0.19%) to $1,886.30 per ounce

  • 10-year Treasury (^TNX): -2.3 bps to yield 0.918%

8:55 a.m. ET: Third-quarter GDP revised up to 33.4% annualized growth

The U.S. economy grew faster than initially reported in the third quarter, the Bureau of Economic Analysis said in its third print on third-quarter gross domestic product.

Third-quarter GDP grew at a record 33.4% annualized clip, versus the 33.1% annualized rate previously stated. The boost came as personal consumption – the lion’s share of the U.S. economy – was revised up to 41.0% growth, from the 40.6% annualized increase reported earlier.

Still, even the record growth following the worst of the spring stay-in-place orders was not enough to bring U.S. economic activity entirely back to pre-pandemic levels.

“The recession might be technically over after such a strong advance, but third quarter GDP is still 3.4% below the pre-pandemic high in the fourth quarter of 2019,” Chris Rupkey, chief financial economist for MUFG Union Bank, said in an email. “In the Great Recession, the economy only fell 4.0% at the worst point and now the economy is nearly as bad as it was then. The only good news is that corporate profits are rebounding more quickly than expected as companies somehow figured out how to make money during this pandemic.”

7:21 a.m. ET Tuesday: Stock futures point slightly higher

Here were the main moves in markets, as of 7:22 a.m. ET Tuesday:

  • S&P 500 futures (ES=F): 3,694.75, up 9 points or 0.24%

  • Dow futures (YM=F): 30,123.00, up 10 points or 0.03%

  • Nasdaq futures (NQ=F): 12,743.5, up 60 points or 0.47%

  • Crude (CL=F): -$0.50 (-1.04%) to $47.47 a barrel

  • Gold (GC=F): -$5.90 (-0.31%) to $1,876.90 per ounce

  • 10-year Treasury (^TNX): -0.3 bps to yield 0.938%

6:01 p.m. ET Monday: Stock futures open flat

Here were the main moves in markets, as of 6:01 p.m. ET Monday:

  • S&P 500 futures (ES=F): 3,688.25, up 2.5 points or 0.07%

  • Dow futures (YM=F): 30,121.00, up 8 points or 0.03%

  • Nasdaq futures (NQ=F): 12,710.25, up 26.75 points or 0.21%

People walk past the New York Stock exchange (NYSE) at Wall Street after heavy rainfall on November 30, 2020 in New York City. - Credit ratings giant S&P Global reached an all-stock deal to buy IHS Markit for $44 billion, creating a massive enterprise to produce data and analytics used by Wall Street, the companies announced Monday. (Photo by Angela Weiss / AFP) (Photo by ANGELA WEISS/AFP via Getty Images)
People walk past the New York Stock exchange (NYSE) at Wall Street after heavy rainfall on November 30, 2020 in New York City. - Credit ratings giant S&P Global reached an all-stock deal to buy IHS Markit for $44 billion, creating a massive enterprise to produce data and analytics used by Wall Street, the companies announced Monday. (Photo by Angela Weiss / AFP) (Photo by ANGELA WEISS/AFP via Getty Images)

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