US STOCKS-S&P, Nasdaq close higher as investors focus on stimulus talks

Reuters

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    * Intel slumps as quarterly margins fall
    * American Express drops as profit falls short of estimates

 (Updates to close, adds new comment, Kudlow's remarks on
stimulus)
    By Gertrude Chavez-Dreyfuss
    NEW YORK, Oct 23 (Reuters) - The S&P 500 and Nasdaq closed
modestly higher on Friday in choppy trading, with investors
keeping a close eye on  negotiations on a U.S. stimulus package
that would ease the economic shock caused by the coronavirus
pandemic.
    The Dow ended lower on the day, moving within tight ranges.
    Uncertainty over the timeline of the relief legislation has
been weighing on Wall Street's major indexes in recent sessions,
with all three indexes posting declines for the week.
    U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said it still was possible
to get another round of COVID-19 aid before the Nov. 3 election,
but that it was up to President Donald Trump to act, including
talking to reluctant Senate Republicans, if he wants it.
 urn:newsml:reuters.com:*:nL1N2HE0ZN
    Trump and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin countered that
Pelosi must compromise to get an aid package, saying significant
differences remained between the Republican administration and
Democrats.
    White House Adviser Larry Kudlow also chimed in on Friday,
saying it would be difficult to get the stimulus bill passed
before the election.  urn:newsml:reuters.com:*:nW1N2CF04S
    Still the market believes a stimulus deal is going to get
done: The only question would be size and timing, analysts said.
    Unofficially, the Dow Jones Industrial Average  .DJI  fell
25.99 points, or 0.09%, to 28,337.67, the S&P 500  .SPX  gained
12.15 points, or 0.35%, to 3,465.64 and the Nasdaq Composite
 .IXIC  added 42.28 points, or 0.37%, to 11,548.28.
     The energy index  .SPNY  dropped the most among the 11
major S&P sectors.
    "This has been a stimulus-driven market for several weeks --
today is more evidence of that," said Lindsey Bell, chief
investment strategist at Ally Invest, in Charlotte, North
Carolina.
    "The market believes we are getting a stimulus. But it wants
to know when it's going to pass because it's going to take time
for the money to flow out," she added. 
    Meanwhile, a record 50 million Americans cast ballots,
eclipsing total early voting from the 2016 election. 
    Trump and Democratic rival Joe Biden debated on Thursday for
the last time to persuade the few remaining undecided voters 11
days before their contest, but while the debate was more toned
down and substantive, it hardly moved the needle.
 urn:newsml:reuters.com:*:nL8N2HE4UL urn:newsml:reuters.com:*:nL1N2HD0U2
    Trump still trailed former vice president Biden in national
polls after the debate, although the contest is much tighter in
some battleground states where the election will likely be
decided.
    The market was weighed down by the sharp fall in chipmaker
Intel Corp  INTC.O  after it reported a drop in margins as
consumers bought cheaper laptops and pandemic-stricken
businesses and governments clamped down on data center spending.
 urn:newsml:reuters.com:*:nL4N2HD4IR
    The third-quarter earnings season, meanwhile, chugged along,
with about 84% of the 135 S&P 500 companies that have reported
so far topping quarterly profit estimates, according to
Refinitiv data. 
    Next week's focus will be on results from Big Tech companies
Apple Inc  AAPL.O , Facebook Inc  FB.O , Amazon.com Inc  AMZN.O 
and Google-parent Alphabet  GOOGL.O .
    Gilead Sciences Inc  GILD.O  rose as its antiviral drug
remdesivir became the first and only drug approved for treating
patients hospitalized with COVID-19 in the United States.
 urn:newsml:reuters.com:*:nL4N2HD4I1
    American Express Co  AXP.N  fell as it missed estimates for
third-quarter profit after its customers spent less during the
COVID-19 fueled economic slowdown and it set aside money for
potential payment defaults.  urn:newsml:reuters.com:*:nL4N2HE33Q

 (Reporting by Gertrude Chavez-Dreyfus; Editing by Cynthia
Osterman)
 ((gertrude.chavez@thomsonreuters.com; 646-301-4124; Reuters
Messaging: rm://gertrude.chavez.reuters.com@reuters.net))

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