NEW YORK (AP) — Stocks are drifting in mixed trading on Wall Street Tuesday after Congress finally approved a $900 billion rescue to carry the economy through what’s likely to be a bleak winter.
The S&P 500 was virtually unchanged after the first 15 minutes of trading, a day after worries about a new, potentially more infectious strain of the coronavirus dragged markets through tumultuous trading. The Dow Jones Industrial Average was down 98 points, or 0.3%, at 30,117, as of 9:45 a.m. Eastern time, and the Nasdaq composite was 0.5% higher.
After months of bickering, Congress approved a deal on Monday night to send $600 cash payments to most Americans, give $300 per week to laid-off workers and deliver other aid to businesses struggling under the weight of the pandemic. The bill is going to President Donald Trump’s desk for his signature.
The hope for investors is that such support can prop up the economy for the next several months, before a more widespread rollout of coronavirus vaccines can allow it stand on its own. That expectation has been driving markets for a while, but a new worry is casting some doubt on it.
A new strain of the coronavirus has emerged, one that is spreading quickly in London and southern England. There’s no evidence that it’s more deadly, but it seems to infect more easily. Worries are high enough about it that countries around the world have restricted flights from London, raising concerns that more economy-punishing lockdowns may be on the way.
Ireland is tightening coronavirus restrictions in response to rising infection rates, and it’s proceeding on the assumption that the new strain is already in the country, for example.
Helping to keep the worries in check was the CEO of BioNTech, the German company that developed a coronavirus vaccine with Pfizer. Ugur Sahin said it “is highly likely” that his company’s vaccine can protect against the new variant, though further studies are needed to be sure.
The United States has already approved the company’s vaccine for use, and the European Union recently followed suit.
Even without the new strain, worries were already high about rising coronavirus counts and deaths in countries around the world. The worsening pandemic has helped cause U.S. weekly unemployment claims to start rising again and sales at retailers to drop.
That’s caused momentum to slow for the stock market, which set record highs last week, after earlier surging on hopes that COVID-19 vaccines will trigger a return to normal for the economy next year and that Washington would approve big stimulus to tide the economy over until then.
In overseas stock markets, European indexes regained some of their sharp drops from the day before. France’s CAC 40 rose 1 %, and Germany’s DAX returned 1%. The FTSE 100 in London added 0.3%.
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Read more:Stocks drift after stimulus deal as virus worries still loom