Stocks – Wall Street Pares Early Gains as Consumer Sentiment Data Weigh

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Investing.com — U.S. stock markets opened higher on Friday, but quickly pared gains as the market digested Thursday’s disappointment over Gilead Sciences (NASDAQ:GILD)’ experimental drug remdesivir, and took comfort in the passage of the latest $484 billion economic support package to be approved by Congress. 

By 10:15 AM ET (1415 GMT), the Dow Jones Industrial Average was effectively unchanged at 23,520 points. The S&P 500 and the Nasdaq Composite were both up 0.2%.  

Fiscal and monetary stimulus continue to be the main factors supporting many stocks close to the levels where they started the year. The Nasdaq is now down only 5.5% for the year to date, thanks largely to the pandemic accelerating structural shifts towards streaming, remote work and online shopping. 

Durable goods orders and consumer sentiment were the latest data points to show the extent of the damage on the economy, the University of Michigan sentiment index falling slightly less than expected from its preliminary measure to 71.8 – still a record low. Durable goods orders also collapsed, but held up better than expected once the highly volatile aircraft component was stripped out of it.  Boeing (NYSE:BA) stock fell 3.7% after it announced on Thursday it would halve production of the Dreamliner 787. 

Investors are warning that for the rest of the market, the path back to “normality” will be long and bumpy.

“What seems increasingly clear to us is that the path back to normal is looking more like a marathon than a sprint,” said BlueBay Asset Management chief investment officer Mark Dowding in e-mailed comments.  He compared the fight against the virus to the First World War.

“At the onset of the First World War, there was initially a belief that it would be ‘all over by Christmas’, only for the grim reality of trench warfare to drag on for years to follow,” Dowding said.

“This isn’t meant to be an overly bleak or pessimistic prognosis,” he added, “just an admission that as we learn more, we need to accept and understand that it will be some time before life goes back to the way it was.”

Elsewhere, Zoom Video (NASDAQ:ZM) rose another 5.6% to a fresh all-time high after being included in the Nasdaq 100 index, while oil and gas stocks rose across the board after Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin hinted at a rescue facility for the industry.

U.S. crude futures have settled into a range after the volatility earlier this week around settlement of the May futures contract, and were up 4.1% at $17.17 by 10:10 AM.

Exxon Mobil (NYSE:XOM) stock was up 1.2%, while the more highly levered Oasis Petroleum  (NASDAQ:OAS) was up 11.7%. 

Intel (NASDAQ:INTC) stock was down 2.9% after reports that its chips will be dropped from Apple’s (NASDAQ:AAPL) next generation of Mac computers, while Verizon (NYSE:VZ) stock fell 0.7% after it took a $228 million charge against possible non-payment of bills as customers lost their jobs in droves due to the pandemic.

Moderna (NASDAQ:MRNA) stock gained 4.5% as speculative interest on a rapid pharmaceutical breakthrough to beat the virus shifted out of Gilead.

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