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Stocks Fall as Covid-19 Surge Worries Wall Street

Stocks decline as a virus resurgence has investors worried that new restrictions aimed at curbing the pandemic will lead to a halt in any economic recovery.

Stocks finished sharply lower Thursday as a resurgence of the coronavirus has Wall Street worried that new restrictions aimed at curbing the pandemic will lead to a halt in any economic recovery.

Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell warned at a European Central Bank forum that the next few months will be challenging as the coronavirus spreads throughout the U.S. and the world.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average finished down 317 points, or 1.08%, to 29,080, the S&P 500 fell 1% and the Nasdaq dropped 0.65%.

Hospitalizations from Covid-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, have jumped in the U.S., particularly in the Midwest. The U.S. recorded more than 152,000 new infections on Wednesday, according to data analyzed by Bloomberg.

In New York, private gatherings statewide will be limited to 10 people, and gyms, restaurants and bars will have to close nightly at 10 p.m.

Wall Street's recent rally, which has taken the main stock market indexes close to all-time highs, has come despite a lack of fiscal support from the current lame duck Congress and the likelihood of several months needed to test, approve, produce and distribute any workable vaccine.

Bloomberg, citing people familiar with the situation, reported the Trump administration was stepping away from stimulus negotiations and leaving it up to Congress to revive talks on an aid package.

The Fed's Powell said the next few months will be challenging, adding, "the main risk we see" to an economic recovery "is clearly the further spread of the disease here in the United States."

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New applications for unemployment benefits in the U.S. dipped last week with continuing claims falling below 7 million for the first time since the coronavirus pandemic began, even as Covid-19 infections continued to soar across the country.

Meanwhile, prices for goods and services were unchanged in October, below forecasts and following a 0.2% rise in September. 

"Rising Covid-19 cases nationwide and the possibility of additional lockdowns could threaten the jobs recovery we've seen over the past few months," said Kenny Polcari, managing partner at Kace Capital Advisors. 

"Over the short-term, the stock market is watching labor market data through the lens of stimulus prospects. Worsening jobs data strengthens the case for more stimulus and vice versa. More stimulus is usually welcomed by investors," Polcari added.

Moderna  (MRNA) - Get Moderna, Inc. Report finished up 6.5% Thursday after the biotech company said its trial of a coronavirus vaccine had accumulated more than 53 infections, enough patients with Covid-19 to enable analysis of the vaccine's effectiveness.

“Moderna has seen a significant increase in the rate of case identification across sites in the last week,” the company said in a statement. “As a result, the company expects the first interim analysis will include substantially more than 53 cases, the targeted trigger point for the analysis.”

Moderna’s vaccine candidate is believed to be similar to one being developed by Pfizer  (PFE) - Get Pfizer Inc. Report and its German partner BioNTech  (BNTX) - Get BioNTech SE Report, which reported preliminary data earlier this week showing 90% effectiveness.

The Commerce Department delayed its enforcement of an order that would have blocked the popular entertainment TikTok from operating in the U.S., The Wall Street Journal reported.