Stocks are little changed after strong start to December, Salesforce drops

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U.S. stocks were little changed on Wednesday, taking a breather following a strong start to the month that lifted the S&P 500 and Nasdaq Composite to record highs in the previous session.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average hovered around the flatline along with the S&P 500. The Nasdaq Composite pulled back by 0.2%.

Dow component Salesforce announced it is acquiring messaging platform Slack for $27.7 billion after the bell on Tuesday. The Slack deal marks the cloud software vendor’s largest deal ever. Shares of Salesforce were off 7%.

That decline was offset by gains in bank and energy names. Chevron was the best-performing stock in the Dow, rising 3.8%. JPMorgan Chase and Goldman Sachs each advanced more than 1%.

Wednesday’s losses came after Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell rejected a bipartisan proposal for a $908 billion stimulus package aimed at breaking the stalemate over new stimulus in Congress.

“The potential for fiscal stimulus in the lame duck session does appear to be on the rise, but any package that will be considered will likely be significantly smaller than the $1 trillion that had been talked about prior to the election,” said Yousef Abbasi, global market strategist at StoneX.

News of the new aid package helped lift the major averages on Tuesday, the first day of December. Those gains propelled the S&P 500 and Nasdaq to record highs.

Equities were also under pressure after President-elect Joe Biden told The New York Times he would not immediately remove tariffs placed by the Trump administration targeting China.

Stocks are coming off of their best month in more than three decades. The Dow gained more than 11% in November, notching its best one-month performance since January 1987. The S&P 500 and Nasdaq Composite rose 10.8% and 11.8%, respectively, for their strongest monthly advances since April. 

November’s rally was bolstered by positive vaccine news from several pharmaceutical companies. The developments pushed investors into stocks that hinge on a strong economic recovery. Investors digested more positive Covid-19 vaccine news on Wednesday. The UK authorized the PfizerBioNTech vaccine for use, marking another step in the global battle against the pandemic.

“The beginning of Covid-19 vaccinations is getting close, bringing ‘buy on any dip’ to the forefront,” Jim Paulsen, chief investment strategist at the Leuthold Group, told CNBC. “After a weaker Monday session, Tuesday brought investors looking for an opportunity to increase risk-on exposures. Activity was further boosted today by bond yields rising in concert with a stronger stock market adding to optimism that recent economic momentum may remain healthy despite the winter Covid-19 case surge.”

Despite the positive vaccine data, Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell called the economic outlook “extraordinarily uncertain” on Tuesday when he and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin spoke before Congress this week as part of mandated updates on CARES Act funding. Mnuchin did call on Congress for $300 billion in aid for restaurants heading into the winter months.

On the data front, private payrolls rose by 307,000 in November, according to ADP. Economists polled by Dow Jones are expecting 475,000 private jobs were added in November, compared to the 365,000 added in October. The number was also the lowest since July. ADP’s report comes days ahead of the Labor Department’s monthly jobs report.

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