Wall Street slips as losses in communication services shares weigh

(Reuters) – The S&P 500 edged lower in choppy trading on Monday as losses in shares of communication services companies eclipsed optimism on a coronavirus relief deal before the Nov. 3 presidential election.

FILE PHOTO: A street sign, Wall Street, is seen outside New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York City, New York, U.S., January 3, 2019. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton

U.S. stocks had opened higher after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said she was optimistic legislation could be pushed through before the election, but acknowledged an agreement would have to come by Tuesday for that to happen.

Last week the White House proposed a $1.8 trillion stimulus package to help Americans struggling with the economic ravages of the coronavirus pandemic, but Pelosi said the offer fell short in a range of areas and stuck to her demand for $2.2 trillion in aid.

“It’s just the general volatility here. I wouldn’t be surprised to see this bouncing around all day,” said Tony Bedikian, head of global markets at Citizens Bank.

“The headlines around stimulus talks are going to be the primary driver for markets this week.”

Wall Street’s fear gauge rose for a sixth straight session as election campaigns kicked into high gear, with early voting starting in Florida, a battleground state that could decide the presidential election.

President Donald Trump and his Democratic challenger Joe Biden will debate for a final time on Thursday.

The communication services index dropped about 1%, with all major S&P sectors trading lower.

At 11:16 a.m. ET, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was down 44.35 points, or 0.16%, at 28,561.96, the S&P 500 was down 5.65 points, or 0.16%, at 3,478.16. The Nasdaq Composite was up 1.41 points, or 0.01%, at 11,672.97.

After the financial sector set a mixed tone to the start of the third-quarter earnings season, investors will look to results from about 91 S&P 500 companies this week including International Business Machines Corp and Netflix Inc.

Oilfield services provider Halliburton Co posted a fourth consecutive quarterly loss as this year’s slump in oil prices due to the COVID-19 pandemic hit demand for its services. Its shares, however, rose about 1%.

ConocoPhillips slipped 1.8% as it agreed to buy U.S. shale oil producer Concho Resources Inc for $9.7 billion as the energy sector continued to consolidate. Concho fell 1.1%.

Chipmaker Microchip Technology Inc gained about 2.6% after Morgan Stanley upgraded the stock to “overweight”.

Advancing issues outnumbered decliners by a 1.43-to-1 ratio on the NYSE and by a 1.37-to-1 ratio on the Nasdaq.

The S&P index recorded 25 new 52-week highs and one new low, while the Nasdaq recorded 81 new highs and 17 new lows.

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