Wall Street Rises as Investors Brace for Volatility on Election Week

The Dow and S&P closed higher on Monday with the Nasdaq posting slimmer gains on the eve of the U.S. presidential election, as investors girded for what could be big market swings this week.

Last week all three indexes notched their biggest weekly decline since March, and this week market participants largely expected short-term volatility and the likelihood of major long-term policy shifts related to taxes, government spending, trade and regulation. The longer-term moves will depend on whether Republican President Donald Trump or his Democratic challenger Joe Biden wins the White House race.

Biden leads in national opinion polls, but races are tight in battleground states that could tip the election to Trump. Analysts said the outcome most likely to shake equity markets in the near term would be no clear winner on Tuesday night.

While the Dow and S&P were on the plus side, they ended well off session highs, and the Nasdaq dipped for awhile into the red as mega-cap technology and tech-related names struggled to gain traction after slumping in the prior week.

Growth stocks rose 0.54%, but were soundly outperformed by beaten-down value names, which tend to provide better returns coming out of a recession. The Russell 100 value index jumped 1.92% to notch its biggest daily percentage gain in nearly five months.

“It is hard to say whether this is sector rotation, an institutional driven event today or traders speculating on what might happen tomorrow,” said Peter Giacchi, Head of DMM Floor Trading at Citadel Securities in New York.

“The longer this plays out over the course of the week, if it takes that long, the more volatility we could expect.”

The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 423.45 points, or 1.6%, to 26,925.05, the S&P 500 gained 40.28 points, or 1.23%, to 3,310.24 and the Nasdaq Composite added 46.02 points, or 0.42%, to 10,957.61.

Investors betting on a Biden administration, which is expected to deliver a massive fiscal stimulus and promote green energy, have fueled a rally in solar stocks, industrials and small-cap names in recent weeks.

On the other hand, JP Morgan has listed Bank of America BAC.N, Wells Fargo and Citigroup in its “Trump basket” of stocks. The S&P banks index added 2.27%.

Energy, materials and industrials enjoyed the sharpest percentage gains among major S&P sectors, climbing more than 2.7%.

The S&P 500 ended a turbulent week at near six-week lows on Friday, after quarterly reports from technology mega-caps failed to impress and as coronavirus cases surged in the United States and Europe. The weekly percentage drop was the largest since late March, which marked the end of a selloff that sent the benchmark index into a bear market, or drop of more than 20% from a high.

The CBOE volatility index, known as Wall Street’s fear gauge, inched lower after ratcheting up last week to the highest in nearly four months.

Investors will also watch this week’s Federal Reserve two-day policy meeting, the monthly jobs report and earnings from about a quarter of the S&P 500 companies.

Clorox Co shares jumped 4.24% after reporting its strongest quarterly sales growth in more than two decades and raising its full-year revenue forecast.

Market research firm Nielsen Holdings Plc rose 3.85% on plans to sell its consumer goods data unit for $2.7 billion to private equity firm Advent International.

But the S&P airlines index fell 1.44% while cruise operators Carnival Corp, down 1.17% and Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd, off 2.77% also lost ground, reflecting fears over a relentless surge in COVID-19 cases.

Advancing issues outnumbered declining ones on the NYSE by a 2.94-to-1 ratio; on Nasdaq, a 2.04-to-1 ratio favored advancers.

The S&P 500 posted 7 new 52-week highs and no new lows; the Nasdaq Composite recorded 21 new highs and 55 new lows.

Volume on U.S. exchanges was 9.01 billion shares, compared with the 9.1 billion average for the full session over the last 20 trading days.

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