Stocks close mixed as regulators seek pause in J&J vaccine


Stocks closed mixed on Wall Street Tuesday as gains from a handful of Big Tech companies were tempered by weakness elsewhere in the market. Treasury yields fell, which hurt banks but helped tech companies. The S&P 500 rose 0.3%, notching another record high. The Dow Jones Industrial Average slipped 0.2% and the tech-heavy Nasdaq rose 1.1%. Among major tech stocks, Apple gained 2.4%. Johnson & Johnson fell 1.3% after U.S. regulators recommended a pause in using its single-dose COVID-19 vaccine to investigate reports of possibly dangerous blood clots. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note fell to 1.62%.

The S&P 500 index was up 0.3% as of 2:54 p.m. Eastern. The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 61 points, or 0.2%, to 33,683 and the Nasdaq was up 0.9%. The divergence was largely due to the fact the Dow has more bank stocks while the Nasdaq is heavily weighted with technology companies.

Dow component Johnson & Johnson fell 1.5% after U.S. regulators recommended a pause in using its single-dose COVID-19 vaccine to investigate reports of possibly dangerous blood clots. Moderna, which also makes a COVID-19 vaccine, rose 6.8%.

The potential loss of a vaccine option is casting a shadow over many companies that are relying on ramped up distribution to recover from the pandemic. American Airlines slipped 2.2% and Delta Air Lines fell 1.6%. A broad mix of retailers and travel-related companies like hotels were also weighed down.

“The response today has been very muted and isolated,” said, Scott Knapp, chief market strategist at CUNA Mutual Group. “Markets don’t expect lockdowns. The recovery may be delayed, but not a return to pandemic conditions.”

Despite the choppy trading, the benchmark S&P 500 was on track for another record high. The broader market has been mostly notching gains this month, reflecting cautious optimism among investors that the economy will strengthen and corporate profits will improve as the distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine paves the way for businesses to fully reopen.

The yield on the 10-year U.S. Treasury fell to to 1.63% from 1.67% the day before. JPMorgan Chase fell 0.9% and Wells Fargo lost 2.3%.

Investors will get a chance to look over the books of the big banks starting Wednesday, when JPMorgan Chase and Wells Fargo report their quarterly results. Bank of America and Citigroup report their results on Thursday.

Big technology stocks, which have fallen when bond yields have risen, were moving solidly higher. Apple rose 2.4% and Amazon rose 1.1%. Technology stocks rose sharply in 2020 as investors bet that stay-at-home Americans would shift even more to online buying and electronic entertainment to keep themselves busy in the pandemic.

Investors had little reaction to a report that showed U.S. consumer prices increased a sharp 0.6% in March, the most since 2012, while inflation over the past year rose a sizable 2.6%. The big gains are expected to be a temporary blip and not a sign that long dormant inflation pressures were emerging. The index rose 0.4% in February.

The Fed has been trying to reassure markets that any increase in inflation would be temporary as the economy recovers.

“It looks like the market is starting to internalize that point of view,” Knapp said.

Traders in cryptocurrencies pushed up the price of Bitcoin above $63,000 for the first time Tuesday. It was up 5.4% to $63,139 in late-afternoon trading, according to the tracking site CoinDesk. The rally comes as cryptocurrency exchange and digital wallet operator Coinbase is set to make its stock market debut Wednesday.


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