Wall Street dips in choppy trade as investors look for stimulus

(Reuters) - Wall Street’s main indexes swung between slight gains and losses on Thursday, as investors held out for more fiscal stimulus against the backdrop of economic data pointing to a slowing labor market recovery.

The U.S. flag is seen outside of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York City, U.S., September 21, 2020. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly

The number of Americans filing for state unemployment benefits last week dropped more than expected to 787,000, but remained stubbornly high as support from fiscal stimulus faded.

Trading on Wall Street this week has been dictated by a flurry of reports related to progress in the stimulus talks. The CBOE Market Volatility index rose for the eighth time in nine sessions on Thursday.

U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said negotiators were making progress in ongoing talks with the Trump administration for another round of financial aid and legislation could be hammered out “pretty soon”.

Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin have been negotiating a relief bill near the $2 trillion mark, a prospect that faces opposition from Senate Republicans who have expressed concern about the potential impact on an already ballooning federal deficit.

“Investors are just waiting,” said Sam Stovall, chief investment strategist CFRA Research. “They are resigned to the fact that we will not get stimulus before the election.”

All eyes will be on the final presidential debate on Thursday night, where Trump will attempt to change the trajectory of the race that Democratic challenger Joe Biden seems to be leading, according to national polls.

Energy and financials rose 2.7% and 1.4%, the steepest percentage gainers among the major S&P sectors.

At 12:39 p.m. ET the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 13.58 points or 0.05% to 28,197.24, the S&P 500 lost 4.81 points, or 0.15% to 3,430.75 and the Nasdaq Composite index shed 67.46 points or 0.59% to 11,417.23.

Meanwhile, about a fifth of S&P 500 companies have reported third-quarter results of which 84.1% beat earnings estimates, according to IBES Refinitiv data.

Tesla Inc climbed 1.5% after the electric-car maker reported its fifth consecutive quarterly profit on record revenue of $8.8 billion.

Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc fell 5.2% as it posted a drop in quarterly profit, hurt by higher beef prices, delivery costs and coronavirus-related expenses.

Among blue-chip companies, Coca-Cola Co gained 1% as it beat quarterly results expectations, while chemicals maker Dow Inc fell 0.8% even as it surpassed quarterly profit estimates.

Advancing issues nearly matched decliners on the NYSE and on Nasdaq.

The S&P index recorded 15 new 52-week highs and one new low, while the Nasdaq recorded 36 new highs and 21 new lows.

Reporting by Medha Singh and Shivani Kumaresan in Bengaluru; Editing by Sriraj Kalluvila and Shounak Dasgupta