U.S. stocks fell Thursday as new restrictions imposed to curb rising coronavirus infection levels weighed on the economic outlook.
The S&P 500 ticked down 0.2% in midday trading, while the Dow Jones Industrial Average also slid, down 0.5%. The technology-heavy Nasdaq Composite opened lower but recently edged up 0.5%.
Stocks have been choppy this week as investors weigh optimism about Covid-19 vaccines paving the way for a sharper economic rebound against more immediate concerns. Rising coronavirus cases, fresh lockdown measures and questions about how quickly the vaccine can be made widely available have damped the mood for many investors.
“Markets are grappling to price in two very different pieces of news across two very different time frames,” said Hugh Gimber, global market strategist at J.P. Morgan Asset Management. “The vaccine news is categorically positive, but it will play out over several months and several quarters. Investors are trying to balance that against the short-term news of rising cases and a deteriorating economic outlook.”
The U.S. logged more than 170,000 newly reported Covid-19 cases on Wednesday, and the death toll crossed the quarter-million mark. States are implementing a patchwork of new restrictions to combat its spread. Kentucky, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Illinois are adopting measures including extended mask mandates, bar and restaurant closures and limits on private gatherings.