Stocks Sell-Off, Dow Sheds 350 Points, After Surging Coronavirus Cases Prompt New York City To Close Public Schools

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Stocks sold off in the final hours of trading on Wednesday–despite a solid morning boost from a slew of positive indicators–after an announced closure of New York City public schools helped push all the major indexes lower for the day.

Key Facts

The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 345 points, or 1.2%, while the S&P 500 also shed 1.2%, and the tech-heavy Nasdaq ended the day down 0.8%.

Boeing shares closed down 3% despite leading the Dow and S&P’s gains in the morning after the Federal Aviation Administration cleared the firm’s 737 Max model for flight following a 20-month grounding prompted by two fatal crashes within five months of each other. 

Pfizer, meanwhile, ticked up 1% after announcing the end of its clinical trials and a 95% efficacy rate (besting its previously announced 90%); the New York-based pharma giant said it will apply for an emergency use authorization “within days.”

Headlining the morning’s earnings, Target reported massive sales growth of nearly 21%, beating Wall Street expectations with $22.6 billion in third-quarter revenue thanks in large part to a 155% surge in online sales (boosted by the firm’s same-day delivery offering).

Despite reporting more than 30% growth in sales, Lowe’s, on the other hand, failed to meet earnings expectations as coronavirus-related expenses–including $245 million “to support frontline hourly associates”–pushed profits down; the firm’s shares tanked about 8%, the day’s biggest stock decline in the S&P.

Global markets ticked up on the Wednesday morning vaccination prospects–before things soured domestically: The United Kingdom’s FTSE 100 added 0.3%, and France’s CAC 40 climbed 0.5%, while Japan’s Nikkei 225, which has been floating around a nearly 30-year high, ended the day down 1.1% prior to Pfizer’s announcement.

Crucial Quote 

“The NYC school closure news provided the spark that drove the [downward] pressure, although the S&P was set up for a pause given the large gains since both the election and the Pfizer data release,” says Vital Knowledge Media founder Adam Crisafulli. “The fundamental narrative didn’t really shift: Covid has been near-term ugly for weeks–no one should need NYC shutting in-person learning to tell them that–and fiscal stimulus doesn’t seem imminent from Washington.”

Big Number

$900 billion. That’s the approximate cumulative annual revenue of all the retailers that have reported earnings in the last 24 hours, according to Crisafulli, who adds that despite worse-than-expected retail sales data from the Census Bureau on Tuesday, all the reporting retailers (including Walmart, TJMaxx and Home Depot) “were bullish on the outlook for the consumer.”


Monthly housing starts, a measure of new residential construction and an indicator that’s been bullish amid the pandemic, surged 4.9% in October (from September) to more than 1.5 million. Economists were expecting growth of 2.9%.

Surprising Fact

The price of bitcoin has soared nearly 5% in the past 24 hours to about $17,800, near levels unseen since before prices crashed in late 2017. A survey from wealth advisory deVere Group showed that 73% of its millionaire clients already invested or plan to invest in cryptocurrencies. According to CEO Nigel Green, investors like bitcoin as a “hedge against longer-term inflation concerns,” which have risen as governments around the world–and particularly in the U.S. and Europe–hike up spending–and load up on debt–to provide coronavirus relief.

Further Reading

New York City To Close Public Schools After Less Than Two Months (Forbes)

Boeing 737 MAX Cleared To Fly Again After Nearly Two Years (Forbes)

Target Sales Just Shocked Wall Street. Here’s How CEO Brian Cornell Did It. (Forbes)

Pfizer-BioNTech Says Covid-19 Vaccine Is 95% Effective, Will Seek Emergency Approval Within Days (Forbes)

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