Stocks seesaw after new home sales surge

U.S. equity markets sought direction on Thursday as new home sales outpaced expectations.and after Sen. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell reassured the country there would be a peaceful transition of power should President Trump lose in the upcoming election.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 37 points, or 0.14%, while the S&P 500 was down 0.04% and the Nasdaq Composite edged up 0.05%.

Ticker Security Last Change Change %
I:DJI DOW JONES AVERAGES 26934.91 +171.78 +0.64%
SP500 S&P 500 3260.81 +23.89 +0.74%
I:COMP NASDAQ COMPOSITE INDEX 10729.244597 +96.26 +0.91%

All three indexes were under pressure earlier after Trump said on Wednesday evening that he would have to see what happens because the “ballots are a disaster.”

Early Thursday McConnell said the inauguration will proceed as it always has.

“The winner of the November 3rd election will be inaugurated on January 20th,” McConnell tweeted. “There will be an orderly transition just as there has been every four years since 1792.”

Looking at the economy, new home sales surged to a seasonal adjusted annualized rate of 1.011 million in August, outpacing the 895,000 that was expected. July’s sales were revised higher to 965,000.

Earlier Thursday, initial jobless claims for the week ended Sept. 19 rose by 4,000 to a worse-than-expected 870,000. Wall Street analysts surveyed by Refinitiv were expecting a reading of 840,000. Continuing claims, meanwhile, fell to 12.58 million from an upwardly revised 12.747 million, but were above the 12.3 million that was expected.

Looking at stocks, Pfizer Inc. and Moderna Inc. will have enough data from their late-stage trials to submit their experimental COVID-19 vaccines for approval in October, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar told FOX Business’ Maria Bartiromo on Thursday. The U.S. expects to have 100 million doses available by the end of the year.

Ticker Security Last Change Change %
PFE PFIZER INC. 35.72 -0.28 -0.78%
MRNA MODERNA INC. 65.49 -1.67 -2.49%

Meanwhile, mega-cap tech companies, including Apple Inc., Amazon Inc. and Microsoft Corp., which have steered the market’s direction remained under pressure after the Department of Justice announced Wednesday it was looking into ways to protect Americans from social media abuse and to combat censorship of lawful speech online.

Ticker Security Last Change Change %
AAPL APPLE INC. 109.21 +2.09 +1.95%
AMZN AMAZON.COM INC. 3,037.85 +37.99 +1.27%
MSFT MICROSOFT CORP. 203.91 +3.32 +1.66%
TSLA TESLA INC. 394.70 +14.34 +3.77%

Tesla Inc. shares continued to skid in the wake of the company’s underwhelming Battery Day event that on Tuesday evening unveiled new technology but failed to deliver on the 1 million-mile battery that Wall Street analysts were hoping for.

Nikola Corp. shares were lower after short-seller Hindenburg Research head Nathan Anderson told The Wall Street Journal on Wednesday afternoon that more news will emerge about the electric-truck maker. Hindenburg earlier this month accused Nikola of misleading investors about its technology, a claim that was denied by founder Trevor Milton before he stepped down as executive chairman.

Elsewhere, TV station operator E.W. Scripps Co. is closing in on a deal to acquire ION Media for $2.65 billion, The Wall Street Journal reported, citing people familiar with the matter. Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway is planning a $600 million preferred investment in Scripps to help the company complete the purchase.

Ticker Security Last Change Change %
NKLA NIKOLA CORPORATION 19.09 -2.06 -9.76%
SSP EW SCRIPPS 11.76 +1.28 +12.27%
DRI DARDEN RESTAURANTS INC. 97.83 +7.81 +8.68%

Looking at earnings, Darden Restaurants Inc. reported mixed quarterly results as same-store sales slumped 28% at Olive Garden, which accounts for about half of revenue, 18% at Longhorn Steakhouse and 38.9% at its fine-dining establishments, including The Capital Grille. The restaurant-chain operator sees sales in the current quarter off 18% from a year ago, ahead of estimates.

Looking at commodities, West Texas Intermediate crude oil was weaker by 2 cents at $39.91 per barrel while gold was down $9.60 to $1,858.80 an ounce.

U.S. Treasurys ticked higher, pushing the yield on the 10-year note down 1 basis point to 0.666%.

European markets were a little lower with Britain’s FTSE off 1.46%, France’s CAC down 1.02% and Germany’s DAX off 0.6%.

In Asia, Hong Kong’s Hang Seng slumped 1.82%, China’s Shanghai Composite slid 1.72% and Japan’s Nikkei lost 1.11%.

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