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Shares close lower for a third day amid concerns over U.S. stimulus and coronavirus spike in Europe

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Inventories were mixed on Thursday as prospects for a coronavirus stimulus deal remained uncertain and infections in Europe increased.

The S&P 500 and the Nasdaq Composite fell 0.1% and 0.3% respectively. The Dow Jones Industrial Average, meanwhile, erased a 332 point decline to trade slightly above the flat line. Gains from JPMorgan Chase and Walgreens Boots Alliance helped the Dow Jones recover from past losses.

“Market volatility is expected to continue in the coming weeks as investors brace for a host of uncertainties over the timing of vaccine availability (after a setback for Johnson & Johnson), size and timing of measures additional fiscal stimulus in the United States and the election outcome, ”wrote Mark Haefele, investment director of global wealth management at UBS. “The patchy recovery in the US economy is also adding to investor concerns as the earnings season began this week.”

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told CNBC’s “Squawk Box” that he and President Donald Trump are determined to secure a stimulus deal and that while it will be difficult to do one before the election , they will keep trying.

Mnuchin, who plans to speak again on Thursday with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, said progress has been made, especially with Democrats’ testing language for the deal. However, he said “politics” can get in the way and Democrats still want an “all or nothing” deal.

The back and forth between Democrats and Republicans propelled the S&P 500 and Nasdaq to a three-day losing streak on Thursday, their longest slide since September.

“We’re two and a half weeks away from the election, so we expect continued volatility,” said James Ragan, director of wealth management research at DA Davidson. “We advise our clients to stick with quality names and stay diverse.”

Sentiment was also softened when European governments reinstate pandemic restrictions to stem a second wave of coronavirus. France has declared a state of public health emergency and the UK is approaching a second national lockdown. European stock indices have fallen significantly.

Meanwhile, the Labor Department said Thursday there were 898,000 new unemployment claimants the week before, more than the Dow Jones estimate of 830,000.

Uncertainty over new U.S. tax assistance and disappointing economic data, along with the surge in coronavirus cases in Europe, came as investors floundered through a string of corporate earnings results.

Morgan Stanley reported third quarter earnings of $ 1.66 per share, beating the estimate of $ 1.28 by analysts polled by Refinitiv, and generated $ 11.7 billion in revenue from strong trade, a billion dollars more than estimate. Morgan Stanley shares rose 1.5%.

Walgreens also posted better-than-expected fourth quarter earnings, helped by higher sales at US drug stores. The drugstore chain said it expects single-digit profit growth in 2021. Walgreens shares jumped 3.6%.

“This is the second earnings season after the Covid-19 pandemic … and it will arguably be one of the most important earnings seasons of all time,” wrote Jeff Kilburg, CEO of KKM Financial. “As investors around the world try to assess the real damage to the economy from Covid-19, the expectations are simply that profits will not be as bad as they were in the second quarter.”

“In the event that we have a positive overall tone transmitted, I think the path for American equity is higher,” Kilburg added.

Meanwhile, Facebook fell more than 2% after The Financial Times reported that France and the Netherlands approve a plan for the European Union to reduce the power of Big Techs, including possibly breaking down companies. Apple and Alphabet fell 1.2% and 0.6% respectively.

CNBC’s Yun Li contributed reporting.

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