July 17, 2020 / 1:48 PM / 22 days ago

S&P 500 ticks higher as investors weigh stimulus against virus worries

(Reuters) - The S&P 500 edged higher in choppy trading on Friday as investors juggled between prospects of more fiscal stimulus and fears of further business disruptions due to another record-breaking rise in COVID-19 cases across the country.

FILE PHOTO: Traders wear masks as they work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange as the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID19) continues in the Manhattan borough of New York, U.S., May 27, 2020. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson/File Photo

Netflix shares fell 6.7% after the video streaming service forecast slower-than-expected subscriber growth during the third quarter, pulling the communication services sector down 0.9%.

The S&P 500 and the Dow are set to close the week higher as optimism over an eventual coronavirus vaccine and hopes of a post-pandemic economic recovery helped investors look past a continuous surge in COVID-19 cases. The United States witnessed 77,000 new infections on Thursday.

“It’s going to be fairly range bound until we get more transparency into exactly how the coronavirus is going to affect us long-term,” said David Trainer, chief executive officer of investment research firm New Constructs in Nashville, Tennessee.

“I don’t see a lot of downside, but I do see a lot of rotation away from the really expensive large-cap tech names, into more reasonably valued individual securities.”

The Nasdaq was set to end the week lower as investors sold shares of high-flying companies including Microsoft Corp, Apple Inc and Amazon.com Inc and moved into cyclical sectors.

The utilities and healthcare sectors rose the most among the major S&P sectors.

At 12:33 p.m. ET, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was down 25.52 points, or 0.10%, at 26,709.19, while the S&P 500 was up 6.55 points, or 0.20%, at 3,222.12. The Nasdaq Composite was up 17.90 points, or 0.17%, at 10,491.73.

Unprecedented stimulus measures and improving economic data have helped the S&P 500 rise to within 5% of its February record high.

Investors are also hoping for more fiscal support as a program that offers additional unemployment benefits is set to expire on July 31. The U.S. Congress will return to Washington on Monday to battle over the next coronavirus aid bill.

“Both Republicans and Democrats have a strong incentive to agree upon further pre-election stimulus. It’s not a matter of ‘if’ a stimulus passes, it’s just what the size and content of that package looks like,” said Andrea Bevis, senior vice president, UBS Private Wealth Management, based in Boston.

BlackRock Inc, the world’s largest asset manager, rose 3.9% after reporting a jump in quarterly profit as investors poured money into its fixed-income funds and cash management services.

Advancing issues outnumbered decliners by a 1.57-to-1 ratio on the NYSE and by a 1.82-to-1 ratio on the Nasdaq.

The S&P index recorded 35 new 52-week highs and no new lows, while the Nasdaq recorded 73 new highs and seven new lows.

Reporting by Devik Jain and Medha Singh in Bengaluru; Editing by Maju Samuel and Anil D'Silva

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