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Stocks open little changed as stimulus talks continue, Netflix shares fall after earnings miss

Stocks traded along the flatline on Wednesday as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin continue their negotiations on a new fiscal stimulus package.

White House chief of staff Mark Meadows said Pelosi and Mnuchin have made “good progress” on stimulus talks. He added, however, that they “still have a ways to go” before an agreement is reached.

Following Pelosi and Mnuchin’s meeting on Tuesday, Meadows told CNBC’s “Closing Bell” that the two will talk again on Wednesday, and that he hopes to see “some kind of agreement before the weekend.”

Mnuchin and Pelosi’s conversation Tuesday continued a last-minute attempt to hash out an agreement before the Nov. 3 election. Democrats and the Trump administration have struggled for months to overcome fundamental disagreements over additional stimulus measures — including the dollar amount — as the economy continues to feel the burden of the coronavirus pandemic.

Stocks have been trading based on lawmakers’ perceived progress — or lack thereof — and on Tuesday finished the session higher after Pelosi told Bloomberg TV that she’s “optimistic” about a potential aid deal.

Goldman Sachs economist Alec Phillips noted, however, that “the biggest issues remain unresolved and a deal doesn’t seem particularly close.”

“With big differences and little time, it seems unlikely that Pelosi and Mnuchin will reach a deal before the election. More importantly, even if a deal in principle is announced in coming days — this seems possible, but not likely — it looks very unlikely that it would pass before Election Day,” he added.

And even if the White House and Democrats hatch a deal, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell would need to bring the bill to the Senate floor in time. McConnell told his caucus Tuesday in a private lunch that he is encouraging the administration not to agree to a stimulus bill as he worries about dividing Republicans on major legislation days before an election, NBC News reported.

“The back and forth political discussions on the stimulus deal and continued election uncertainty give us extra justification for short-term market uneasiness,” said David Bahnsen, chief investment strategist at The Bahnsen Group, which oversees $2.5 billion in client assets. “Very few market actors actually doubt that some fiscal relief bill is coming. The question is purely when, and of what composition,” he added.

A slew of companies reported quarterly earnings after the bell on Tuesday, most notably Netflix. Shares of the streaming giant slipped 5.7% after the company missed earnings estimates, and reported fewer-than-expected subscriber additions. On the other hand, shares of Snap jumped 24% after the company reported a surprise earnings beat.

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