US STOCKS-S&P, Nasdaq close higher as stimulus talks in spotlight
By Gertrude Chavez-Dreyfuss
NEW YORK, Oct 23 (Reuters) - The S&P 500 and Nasdaq closed modestly higher on Friday in choppy trading, with investors keeping a close eye on negotiations on a U.S. stimulus package that would ease the economic shock caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
The Dow ended lower on the day, moving within tight ranges.
Uncertainty over the timeline of the relief legislation has been weighing on Wall Street's major indexes in recent sessions, with all three indexes posting declines for the week.
U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said it still was possible to get another round of COVID-19 aid before the Nov. 3 election, but that it was up to President Donald Trump to act, including talking to reluctant Senate Republicans, if he wants it.
Trump and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin countered that Pelosi must compromise to get an aid package, saying significant differences remained between the Republican administration and Democrats.
Still the market believes a stimulus deal is going to get done: The only question would be size and timing, analysts said.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average .DJI closed 28.09 points lower, or 0.1%, to 28,335.57, the S&P 500 .SPX gained 11.9 points, or 0.34%, to 3,465.39 and the Nasdaq Composite .IXIC added 42.28 points, or 0.37%, to 11,548.28.
The communication services sector .SPLRCL rose 1.1%, the highest gainer among the major S&P sectors.
"This has been a stimulus-driven market for several weeks -- today is more evidence of that," said Lindsey Bell, chief investment strategist at Ally Invest, in Charlotte, North Carolina.
"The market believes we are getting a stimulus. But it wants to know when it's going to pass because it's going to take time for the money to flow out," she added.
Meanwhile, a record 50 million Americans cast ballots, eclipsing total early voting from the 2016 election.
Trump and Democratic rival Joe Biden debated on Thursday for the last time to persuade the few remaining undecided voters 11 days before their contest, but while the debate was more toned down and substantive, it hardly moved the needle.
Trump still trailed former vice president Biden in national polls after the debate, although the contest is much tighter in some battleground states where the election will likely be decided.
A sharp 10% fall in chipmaker Intel Corp INTC.O after it reported a drop in margins earlier weighed on the market. Intel's results were pressured as consumers bought cheaper laptops and pandemic-stricken businesses and governments clamped down on data center spending.
The third-quarter earnings season, meanwhile, chugged along, with about 84% of the 135 S&P 500 companies that have reported so far topping quarterly profit estimates, according to Refinitiv data.
Next week's focus will be on results from Big Tech companies Apple Inc AAPL.O, Facebook Inc FB.O, Amazon.com Inc AMZN.O and Google-parent Alphabet GOOGL.O.
Gilead Sciences Inc GILD.O rose 0.2% as its antiviral drug remdesivir became the first and only drug approved for treating patients hospitalized with COVID-19 in the United States.
American Express Co AXP.N fell 3.6% as it missed estimates for third-quarter profit after its customers spent less during the COVID-19 fueled economic slowdown and it set aside money for potential payment defaults.
For the week, the Dow ended down 0.9%, the S&P 500 fell 0.5% and Nasdaq declined 1.1%.
Volume on U.S exchanges was 7.79 billion shares, compared with the nearly 9 billion average for the full session over the last 20 trading days.
(Reporting by Gertrude Chavez-Dreyfus; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)
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