US stocks waver as stimulus friction and rising virus cases overshadow vaccine hopes – Business Insider

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  • US stocks fluctuated on Friday as soaring COVID-19 cases and disagreement on new stimulus offset positive developments for vaccine distribution.
  • Pfizer and BioNTech both gained ahead of plans to apply for emergency-use authorization for their experimental coronavirus vaccine. The FDA’s vetting process is set to take a few weeks, teeing the shot up for an early 2021 rollout.
  • The US reported a record 182,832 new COVID-19 cases on Thursday, according to The COVID Tracking Project. Cities continued to implement stricter lockdown measures to slow the virus’s spread.
  • Futures fell late Thursday after Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin called on the Fed to return funds set aside for emergency lending.
  • The move marked a rare bout of disagreement, as the Fed urged the Treasury to extend “the full suite of emergency facilities” past their upcoming deadlines.
  • Watch major indexes update live here.

US equities traded mixed on Friday as the latest steps toward distributing a COVID-19 vaccine squared off with record case counts and a dispute over relief funds.

Pfizer and BioNTech are set to apply for emergency-use authorization from the US Food and Drug Administration on Friday for their experimental coronavirus vaccine. The move brings the country one step closer to having a viable drug with which to combat the pandemic.

The FDA’s vetting process is set to take a few weeks, and vulnerable populations could receive the shot in early 2021. Both companies gained on the news.

Approval for a vaccine comes at a critical point for the US economy. The country reported a record 182,832 new COVID-19 cases on Thursday, according to The COVID Tracking Project. Daily deaths came in just below 2,000, and the number of Americans hospitalized with the virus passed 80,000.

Here’s where US indexes stood shortly after the 9:30 a.m. ET market open on Friday:

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Major cities continue to implement stricter lockdown measures to combat the virus’s community spread. The restrictions threaten to cut into critical holiday season spending and slow the US economic recovery even further. Indicators including retail sales growth and jobless claims surprised to the downside in recent weeks, suggesting the rebound is already losing momentum.

Index futures fell late Thursday after Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin sent a letter to the Federal Reserve calling on the central bank to return funds set aside for several emergency lending programs. The decision dooms five facilities, including the Municipal Liquidity Facility and both corporate-credit programs, to expire at the end of the year.

Mnuchin said that, while some corners of the economy continue to struggle through the pandemic, additional fiscal stimulus would help them more than taking on more debt.

The Fed quickly responded with a rare public statement, saying the Treasury should extend “the full suite of emergency facilities.” The programs continue to serve “as a backstop for our still-strained and vulnerable economy,” the central bank added.

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The dispute marks an unusual bout of discord between the country’s top two economic policymakers. While the Fed and the Treasury worked hand-in-hand at the start of the pandemic to introduce the facilities, their disagreement jeopardizes a coordinated policy response moving forward.

Gilead shares fell after World Health Organization officials advised against treating COVID-19 patients with its remdesivir drug. There is “no evidence” the drug improves chances of survival or the need for ventilation, the organization said in a medical journal.

Bitcoin jumped more than 3% to about $18,495, bringing the token even closer to retaking its 2017 high.

Spot gold edged 0.7% higher, to $1,879.45 per ounce, at intraday highs. The US dollar gained against the majority of its Group-of-10 peers, while Treasury yields climbed. 

Oil prices slid. West Texas Intermediate crude declined as much as 0.6%, to $41.51 per barrel. Brent crude, oil’s international benchmark, climbed 1.3%, to $44.78 per barrel, at intraday highs.

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