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Stock indexes end mixed as damage to the economy piles up

The words "Wall Street" are engraved in stone.
Some 60% of the companies in the S&P 500 fell, led by declines in industrial and communication services stocks.
(Richard Drew, AP)

U.S. stock indexes closed mostly lower Thursday after more evidence that the pandemic is tightening its grip on the economy while Congress remains in a stalemate over how to do something about it.

The Standard & Poor’s 500 index slipped 0.1% after flipping between gains and losses in the early going. The index is within 1% of its all-time high set Tuesday. Some 60% of the companies in the S&P 500 fell, led by declines in industrial and communication services stocks. Those losses outweighed gains in energy, technology and financial companies.

Treasury yields fell after a report that showed 853,000 U.S. workers applied for unemployment benefits last week. That was more than economists expected and an acceleration from the prior week. It’s also the latest reminder that the pandemic is doing more damage to the economy in the near term, even if prospects are rising that a COVID-19 vaccine will get the economy healthy again in the longer term.

Economists and investors have been imploring Congress to deliver more financial support in the meantime, to help carry the economy until it can stand on its own. After months of partisan bickering and no progress on Capitol Hill, momentum seemed to swing higher recently for a deal, but talks are still mired in deep uncertainty.

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The S&P 500 fell 4.72 points to 3,668.10. The Dow Jones industrial average dropped 69.55 points, or 0.2%, to 29,999.26. The Nasdaq composite rose 66.85 points, or 0.5%, to 12,405.81.

Small-company stocks continued to do better than the broader market. The Russell 2000 climbed 20.56, or 1.1%, to 1,922.70, a record high.

Starbucks gained 5% after the coffee chain backed its profit forecast for this fiscal year and said it expects “outsized growth” in the following one.

Elsewhere in the market, shares of Airbnb soared 112.8% on their first day of trading. Interest has been high for the short-term home-sharing company, which has seen its business recover faster through the pandemic than hotels.

A day earlier, another San Francisco-based company, DoorDash, soared nearly 86% in the first day of trading for its stock.

The yield on the 10-year Treasury fell to 0.90% from 0.93% late Wednesday. A government report released Thursday morning showed that inflation was slightly stronger last month than economists expected, though it remains modest.


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