• US stock indices mixed as investors focus on Washington politics and stimulus prospects.
  • Corporate earnings for the December quarter are about to begin streaking, and those will impact market sentiment.
  • COVID-19 vaccine distribution remains on the market’s focus as a few virus strains renew concerns.

The major US stock indices finished mixed Wednesday. Investors appeared to retreat from both blue-chip and small-cap stocks, perhaps in profit-taking moves after the recent surge to record levels.

COVID-19 cases that continue to rise and Washington’s events around President Donald Trump’s impeachment also seemed to weigh on investor sentiments.

Still, the energy and banking sectors continued to be the bright spots across the major indices. Investors hope the incoming Democratic administration will increase government spending in climate and infrastructure, benefiting clean energy and financial service providers. 

Dow sheds more than 8 points

Dow Jones Industrial Average Index

The blue-chip index Dow Jones Industrial Average lost 8.22 points or declined 0.03% to close at 31,060.47. The Dow features 30 large companies across several sectors considered to be the backbone of the US economy. 

Looking at individual Dow stocks, Intel shone after it ousted its CEO, Bob Swan, at the urging of activist investor Third Point. VMware CEO Pat Gelsinger will now take over as Intel CEO. Investors cheered the change, pushing Intel stock up 7%.

The bears appeared to take control in Dow stocks shortly after trading began, taking the index below 31,000. The bulls swiftly countered. A struggle ensued well past noon, with the bulls appearing to prevail as the Dow shot up past 31,153. The bears appeared to renew their effort as the market neared close as bulls looked exhausted, and the struggle ended in the bear’s favor.

S&P 500 edges up slightly

The broader market benchmark S&P 500 index gained 8.65 points or advanced 0.23% to close at 3,809.84. The S&P 500 features nearly all of what may be considered America’s most essential companies across multiple sectors. 

Looking at individual S&P 500 stocks, General Motors was among the notable gainers. Shares of the automaker rose 1.9% after it announced a plan to launch the electric-truck delivery business.

S&P 500 index chart

The bears struck immediately after trading began, sending the S&P 500 down to 3,791.50 in mid-morning. But the bulls countered quickly, and a struggle with the bulls in control went on well into late noon. The bulls dominated the scene for a few hours, sending the benchmark index past 3,820.96. The bears struck again, but it was too late to achieve their desire, and the S&P 500 closed in the bulls’ favor.

Nasdaq Composite rises as sentiment on tech stocks improves

The tech-weighted Nasdaq Composite added 56.52 points to rise 0.43% to 13,128.95. Investor sentiment on tech stocks appeared to be improving after Twitter and Facebook’s decisions to suspend President Trump’s social media accounts resulted in cautious trading in the space. 

Looking at individual Nasdaq Composite stocks, notable rises included Netflix, Apple, and Amazon. 

Nasdaq Composite Index chart

The bears hoped to extend the recent selloff in tech stocks immediately after the market opened, resulting in Nasdaq Composite sliding to 13,051.06 in the mid-morning session. But the bulls couldn’t let that happen. That sparked a day-long struggle that ended in the bulls’ favor. 

Russell 2000 tumbles as investors rethink small-cap bets

Russell 2000 index shed 16 points to retreat 0.75% to 2,111.97. It was the worst-performing major index of the day. Russell 2000 tracks small-cap stocks. It recently surged to record levels alongside the Dow, S&P 500, and Nasdaq Composite. 

With major large companies richly priced, investors appeared to turn to small-caps for bargain opportunities. But the prospects of large-cap stocks continuing to advance with the expected big government spending seemed to distract attention from small-caps. 

Moreover, concerns that small companies may be more in danger from COVID-19 resurgence infection also seemed to cause some investors to rethink their small-cap bets. A more contagious version of the coronavirus first discovered in the UK is spreading around the world. 

Finally, events around COVID-19 vaccine distribution, Trump’s impeachment, and corporate earnings for the December quarter are likely to influence stock trading in the coming days.