Stocks rise slightly as traders watch for stimulus progress, tech outperforms

U.S. stocks climbed on Thursday to kick off a new month and quarter as investors monitored progress on lawmakers’ negotiations on further fiscal stimulus.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average last traded up about 70 points after jumping 250 points earlier. The S&P 500 gained 0.5% and the Nasdaq Composite rose 1.2%.

Major technology shares provided the broader market with some support as Amazon, Microsoft, Alphabet and Facebook all jumped at least 1%. The S&P 500 tech sector was the biggest winner among the 11 groupings, up 0.9%.

Stocks cut gains after signs of lingering uncertainty about a coronavirus aid deal. NBC News reported Thursday that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Republicans “don’t share our values” or want to make necessary investments, specifically in state and local funding and health-related priorities. 

The House of Representatives delayed a vote on the Democrats’ $2.2 trillion rescue package on Wednesday evening to allow for more talks.

White House chief of staff Mark Meadows told reporters late Wednesday that President Donald Trump has extended an offer for more than $1.5 trillion in stimulus. No further details were given on the exact figure except that anything around $2 trillion and above would be a “real problem.”

Meadows’ comments came after Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin failed to strike a coronavirus aid deal in a meeting Wednesday afternoon. The pair is scheduled to hold a phone call at 1 p.m. ET Thursday.

“We have always maintained a glimmer of hope – especially as we continue to believe there is majority support for a package in the $1.5-$2 trillion range,” wrote Ed Mills of Raymond James. “However, all of our conversations with our DC contacts remain skeptical.”

Mixed economic data also kept sentiment in check. U.S. manufacturing activity slowed in September as a purchasing manager’s index fell to a reading of 55.4 from 56 in August, according to the Institute for Supply Management.

The weekly jobless claims report came in better than expected, however. The Labor Department said first-time filers for unemployment benefits tallied 837,000 in the week ending Sept. 26. Economists polled by Dow Jones expected a total of 850,000.

The major averages are coming off their first down month since March. The 30-stock Dow lost 2.2% in September, a typically weak month for equities. The S&P 500 fell 3.9% for the month, while the technology-heavy Nasdaq Composite dropped 5.2%.

However, all three benchmarks achieved strong gains for the third quarter. The S&P 500 rose 8.5% in the quarter for its sixth positive quarter in seven and the index is up 5% for the year. 

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