U.S. stocks fell on Friday, pulling back from record levels as investors reassessed the outlook for President Joe Biden’s ambitious Covid stimulus plan.
The Dow Jones Industrial average fell 200 points, or 0.6%, while the S&P 500 fell 0.5%. The Nasdaq Composite fell 0.4%. The tech-heavy benchmark and the S&P 500 both hit record highs on Thursday. The Dow hit an intraday high in the previous session before closing lower.
The Dow component IBM fell more than 9% after the company posted fourth quarter revenue that was below analysts’ expectations. Revenue declined 6% on a year-on-year basis for the fourth straight quarter of declines.
Intel stocks were down 5% after falling 6% on Thursday after posting better-than-expected gains just before the closing bell.
A growing number of Republicans have expressed doubts about the need for another stimulus package, particularly one with a price proposed by Biden of $ 1.9 trillion. Meanwhile, Democratic Senator Joe Manchin has criticized the scope of the last round of proposed stimulus checks. The contradiction of both parties carries weight for Biden, who took office with a narrow majority in Congress.
“Washington’s political reality is starting to affect markets and it is becoming increasingly unclear when the Democrats’ ambitious economic targets will become law,” said Tom Essaye, founder of Sevens Report.
Cyclical sectors, which would benefit most from additional stimulus, lagged the broader market this week. Energy and finance have both lost more than 1% in weeks, while materials have also declined. These sectors caused the market to decline again on Friday.
Tech companies, most of which do not need incentives to fuel growth, led the indictment. Hopes for a robust earnings season from the country’s biggest communications and technology stocks have kept mega-cap stocks on the uptrend this week, with major indices nearing records during the week of shortened holidays.
Apple and Facebook are up 6.8% and 9.7% respectively this week ahead of their quarterly results, while Microsoft is up nearly 7%.
With the S&P 500 up another 2% this year and up 16% over the past 12 months, some investors believe the market could outperform itself as problems with the vaccine rollout and economic reopening likely will continue to exist in the future.
“The Covid pendulum, which usually emphasizes the vaccine’s optimism about the harsh short-term reality, is swinging back towards the latter (for now) as epicenter stocks are hit hard in Europe,” Adam Crisafulli, founder of Vital Knowledge, said in a note Friday.
Despite the weakness on Friday, the key averages are well on their way to having a successful week. The S&P 500 is up 2.2% in the week so far. The Dow is up 0.6% and the Nasdaq Composite is up 3.8%.
Meanwhile, the Senate is expected to approve former Fed chair Janet Yellen as Biden’s Treasury Secretary by an overwhelming majority on Friday. If this were confirmed, she would be the first woman to head the department.