US stocks end mostly lower on grim Covid-19 news

Health care workers tend to a Covid-19 patient at a medical centre in Apple Valley, California.
Health care workers tend to a Covid-19 patient at a medical centre in Apple Valley, California.PHOTO: AFP

NEW YORK (AFP) - Wall Street stocks finished mostly lower on Friday (Jan 22) as investors grappled with worries over new coronavirus strains while confidence in continued fiscal and monetary stimulus supported equities.

The Nasdaq edged to a fresh record, but both the Dow and S&P 500 retreated as British Prime Minister Boris Johnson warned a newer Covid-19 strain may be more deadly, and US President Joe Biden said fatalities in the hard-hit country are expected to exceed 600,000.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average ended 0.6 per cent lower at 30,996.98, while the broad-based S&P 500 shed 0.3 per cent to 3,841.47.

But the tech-rich Nasdaq Composite Index advanced 0.1 per cent to 13,543.06, finishing at a record for a third straight session.

"The market is underpinned by a great deal of momentum," said Briefing.com analyst Patrick O'Hare, noting that the Federal Reserve and the newly-installed Biden administration are intent on taking sufficient measures to boost the economy.

"A lot of people are still fearful about being out of the market," O'Hare said.

New data showed existing home sales in December rose more than expected, capping a strong 2020 as Americans took advantage of low borrowing rates to buy homes amid the upheaval of the coronavirus.

Among individual companies, Dow member IBM plunged almost 10 per cent as it reported another drop in quarterly revenue.

Intel, another blue-chip company, shed 9.3 per cent despite reporting better-than-expected results as the chipmaker faces calls to outsource its manufacturing operations.

Carnival dropped 2.5 per cent as it canceled more cruises and extended its pause in business because of the coronavirus, announcing US cruises will be offline through April 30.