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Stocks End Mixed Amid Retail Sales, Consumer Sentiment; Boeing Up

Wall Street gets a boost from a 1.9% surge in U.S. retail sales in September, and an improvement in consumer sentiment in October.

Stocks ended mixed Friday after a report showed September retail sales surged 1.9% and as consumers' sentiment improved in October as their expectations of economic prospects brightened.

Equities also got a lift from news that Pfizer  (PFE) - Get Pfizer Inc. Report would seek emergency-use approval for its Covid-19 vaccine as soon as November, and that European regulators deemed Boeing's  (BA) - Get Boeing Company Report grounded 737 MAX aircraft safe enough to fly.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average ended up 112 points, or 0.39%, to 28,606 and the S&P 500 edged up 0.01%. The Nasdaq Composite slipped 0.36%, as such big names as Amazon  (AMZN) - Get, Inc. Report, Netflix  (NFLX) - Get Netflix, Inc. (NFLX) Report and Tesla  (TSLA) - Get Tesla Inc Report all finished in the red.

Each of the three indexes closed the week with modest gains: the Dow industrials 0.07%, S&P 500 0.2% and the Nasdaq 0.8%. 

"Amid a stagnating labor market, the jump in retail sales this month suggests consumer strength is pretty robust -- with the highest number we’ve seen in three months," said Mike Loewengart, managing director of investment strategy at E-Trade. 

"The momentum on that front could be a positive for the market as investors look for signs of recovery.

"That said, it remains to be seen if this is an outlier or trend. Retail sales could take center stage in the months ahead as holiday season quickly approaches. Retailers certainly have had to pivot during the pandemic, so we’ll see how they keep up with consumers to close out 2020. 

"Further, while a resilient consumer is a broad positive for the recovery, (Friday's) results could reduce the pressure on lawmakers to get any stimulus measure through before the election," he added.

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Pfizer's timeline for emergency-use authorization approval is the most specific of any of the dozens of experimental coronavirus vaccines undergoing testing. It follows pauses in trials from rivals AstraZeneca  (AZN) - Get Astrazeneca PLC Sponsored ADR Report and Johnson & Johnson  (JNJ) - Get Johnson & Johnson (JNJ) Report over safety concerns.

Pfizer shares finished up 3.8% to $37.95 in trading Friday.

Boeing rose 1.9% to $167.33 Friday after Europe’s top aviation regulator said he was satisfied that changes to Boeing's 737 MAX have made the plane safe enough to return at least to Europe's skies before the end of 2020.

The Pfizer and Boeing news comes as investors weigh a stalemate in U.S. stimulus negotiations and the economic impact of efforts by global governments to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

President Donald Trump has told Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin that the White could raise its virus relief offer above $1.8 trillion, but Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said that reluctant GOP lawmakers wouldn't go along.

Mnuchin told House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the chief negotiator for House Democrats, that "the president would weigh in with Leader McConnell should an agreement be reached,” Pelosi spokesman Drew Hammill tweeted.

Pelosi, Bloomberg reported Friday, told Democratic colleagues that a divide with the White House persists over a number of components of the relief plan she's been attempting to negotiate.

Waning hopes for a stimulus deal before Election Day sank markets on Thursday, as did an unexpected jump in U.S. jobless claims and a resurgence of virus cases rising in Europe, prompting aggressive clampdowns from governments in France and Britain to contain the outbreak.

U.S. confirmed cases of the coronavirus, meanwhile, topped 8 million, according to Johns Hopkins University.