US STOCKS-Wall Street closes lower as surging COVID-19 cases offset vaccine hopes

Reuters

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    * Pfizer to seek emergency green light from FDA
    * Chip-makers, stay-at-home stocks outperform
    * Mnuchin to let Fed lending programs expire on Dec. 31
    * 

 (Updates to market close)
    By Stephen Culp
    NEW YORK, Nov 20 (Reuters) - U.S. stocks closed lower on
Friday as investors wrestled with fiscal stimulus developments,
concerns over a lengthy rollout of vaccines, and a growing
number of state-level shutdowns to combat the spiraling COVID-19
pandemic.
    Stay-at-home plays such as Zoom Communications Inc  ZM.O 
and Netflix Inc  NFLX.O , which have outperformed throughout the
health crisis, helped curb the Nasdaq's loss. 
    Throughout the week, the ebb and flow of vaccine news and
spiking infections had investors oscillating between
economically-sensitive cyclical stocks and pandemic-resistant
market leaders.
    The S&P 500 and the Dow posted marginal losses for the week,
while the tech-laden Nasdaq settled a bit higher from last
Friday's close.
    "Markets are still stuck in a push-and-pull between the
dramatic rise of new COVID cases versus apparent progress on
vaccines," said David Carter, chief investment officer at Lenox
Wealth Advisors in New York. "This is likely to continue until
we have an approved and distributed vaccine."
    U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin announced late
Thursday that he would allow key pandemic-relief lending
programs at the Federal Reserve to expire at the end of the
year, saying the $455 billion allocated last spring under the
CARES act should be returned to Congress to be reallocated as
grants for small companies.  urn:newsml:reuters.com:*:nL1N2I52W1
    The decision to pull the plug on lending programs deemed
essential by the central bank comes at a time of spiraling new
coronavirus infections and a fresh wave of layoffs, and was
called "disappointing" by Chicago Federal Reserve president
Charles Evans.  urn:newsml:reuters.com:*:nL1N2I611N
    "This dust-up between the Fed and Treasury could have
serious implications, as markets want to see the two
institutions working well together," Carter added. "The timing
of this dust-up is unfortunate, as the risk of COVID is still
very much with us."
    Record infection numbers have caused COVID hospitalizations
to soar by 50% and have prompted a new round of school and
businesses closures, curfews and social distancing restrictions,
hobbling the economic recovery from the deepest recession since
the Great Depression.  urn:newsml:reuters.com:*:nL1N2I52QD
    In the latest development in the race to develop a vaccine,
Pfizer Inc  PFE.N  has applied to the U.S. Food and Drug
Administration for emergency use authorization of its COVID-19
vaccine, the first application of its kind in the battle against
the disease.  urn:newsml:reuters.com:*:nL4N2I62KF
    Unofficially, the Dow Jones Industrial Average  .DJI  fell
219.95 points, or 0.75%, to 29,263.28, the S&P 500  .SPX  lost
24.22 points, or 0.68%, to 3,557.65 and the Nasdaq Composite
 .IXIC  dropped 49.74 points, or 0.42%, to 11,854.97.
    Stay-at-home beneficiary Zoom Video Communications Inc
 ZM.O  provided the biggest lift to the Nasdaq.
    Gilead Sciences Inc  GILD.O  lost ground after a World
Health Organization panel advised against the use of the
company's COVID-19 treatment remdesivir, citing lack of evidence
the drug improves survival or reduces the need for ventilation.
 urn:newsml:reuters.com:*:nL1N2I602Z

 (Reporting by Stephen Culp; editing by Tom Brown)
 ((stephen.culp@thomsonreuters.com; 646-223-6076;))

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