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Stocks decline as COVID-19 cases surge

11/20/2020 | 05:55pm

The Dow and the S&P 500 suffered their first weekly losses in three weeks under the weight of a surge in coronavirus cases and what that could mean for the fragile economic recovery.

Blue chips fell 219 points on Friday. The S&P 500 lost 24. The Nasdaq reversed an early gain to fall 49 points.

Wall Street nerves were further frayed as Treasury Secretary Steven Mnunchin stands ready to allow funding for several Federal Reserve emergency lending programs to expire at the end of the year.

And yet, with the S&P 500 just 2 percent off a record high, Ken Kamen of Mercadien Asset Management is surprised the market is holding up as well as it has.

"I think also that the markets are, you know, dealing with a whole bunch of other things. I mean, we're really in a headline driven market and we're going to be that way. You know, it's kind of crazy when you think about how well the market's been doing when from the outside, with the election controversies, with the coronavirus surging and all that, you would think we wouldn't be here."

Drug stocks were in focus for more than one reason. Pfizer became the first company to apply for U.S. emergency authorization for a COVID-19 vaccine. The move came within the same week the drugmaker updated late-stage clinical trial results, which it said showed its vaccine was 95% effective in preventing the disease without any major complications. Shares of Pfizer rose 1.4 percent.

A different story, though, for Gilead Sciences. A World Health Organization panel advised against the use of Gilead's controversial COVID-19 treatment - Remdesivir, citing lack of evidence the drug improves the survival rate. The stock was down nearly a full percent.

© Reuters 2021
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