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Wall Street ends mixed, tech shares see late selloff

By AFP - Oct 17,2020 - Last updated at Oct 17,2020

A bike messenger rides through the rain at Time Square , in New York City on Friday (AFP photo)

NEW YORK — US stocks ended the week mixed on Friday as optimism over positive economic data was tempered by a soaring US deficit and the growing realisation a new stimulus package is unlikely anytime soon.

Better-than-expected retail sales data and consumer confidence showed Americans remain willing to spend -- for now -- and shares were boosted by positive news about Boeing's 737 MAX and drugmaker Pfizer.

The benchmark Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 0.4 per cent to finished an up-down week at 28,606.31, while the broad-based S&P 500 was essentially flat, rising just 0.1 per cent to end at 3,483.81.

But declines by industry titans like Amazon, Apple and Netflix reversed early gains in the tech-rich Nasdaq, which lost 0.4 per cent to close at 11,671.55.

US retail sales climbed 1.9 per cent in September, triple expectations, with purchases of cars and parts, clothing and sporting goods increasing dramatically, according to the Commerce Department report released before markets opened.

The data was a reassuring sign of the economy's resilience after key provisions of the $2.2 trillion CARES Act preventing layoffs and providing support to consumers expired in recent months.

Democrats and Republicans have been negotiating on another stimulus package but growing signs that nothing would be approved before the November 3 presidential election has sent indices closing lower in recent days.

However, separate data from the Federal Reserve showed industrial production in September declining for the first time in five months, losing 0.6 per cent as manufacturing and utilities fell.

Peter Cardillo of Spartan capital Securities said that shows the recovery was losing steam and the economy still needs stimulus.

"The market seems to be holding onto hopes that eventually we will get a stimulus plan," he told AFP. 

"I still think there is a possibility that we'll get it before the elections even though it does not appear that way. It would make political sense for both parties to come up with a plan."

There were glimmers of optimism following market close with news Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin may yield to some Democratic demands on Covid-19 testing to get a stimulus deal passed.

Pfizer jumped 3.8 per cent and BioNTech rose 4.1 per cent after announcing they would seek emergency authorisation for their Covid-19 vaccine in late November. 

Boeing rose 1.9 per cent after the director of the European Union's aviation safety agency told Bloomberg the grounded 737 MAX aircraft was safe to fly again and could return to the skies by the end of the year.

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