S&P 500 ends lower as new COVID storm clouds overshadow stimulus passage

By Stephen Culp
NEW YORK (Reuters) - The S&P 500 lost ground on Tuesday as concerns over a new variant of the coronavirus and disappointing economic data stole the thunder from Washington's passage of a long-awaited pandemic relief law.
The Dow also closed lower, while Apple Inc helped push the tech-heavy Nasdaqs to all-time highs.
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Small caps continued to develop, with the Russell 2000 also closing at a record level.
"Today the market is holding its breath," said Ryan Detrick, senior market strategist at LPL Financial in Charlotte, North Carolina. "It digests the two big pieces of news we got in the last 24 hours, the appeal and the new COVID strain."
Apple was an outlier in the midst of a broad sell-off, gaining 2.8% and providing the S&P 500 and Nasdaq with the biggest boost on the news about the company's plans to introduce an electric passenger car by 2024.
Overnight, Congress passed a $ 892 billion pandemic relief package after months of partisan tug-of-war to support an economic recovery stalled under the weight of restrictions to contain a coronavirus resurgence.
This resurgence continues to swell, infecting 214,000 Americans daily, leading to mandatory shutdowns and increasing hospital capacities.
A rapidly spreading new variant of the virus discovered in the UK has halted movement in and out of the UK, leading vaccine makers Pfizer Inc and Moderna Inc to seek reassurance that their drugs are effective against the virus.
Coronavirus fears and optimism about a possible economic recovery created extreme volatility on Wall Street in 2020. The S&P 500 posted gains or losses of 2% or more more than 40 times a day over the year, the most for over a decade.
"This will be the first year in history where stocks are down 30% and in the green at any given point," said Detrick. "It's really an amazing tour and we've never seen anything like it."
In economic terms, consumer confidence fell unexpectedly, while US used home sales saw their first decline in six months.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 200.94 points, or 0.67%, to 30,015.51, the S&P 500 lost 7.66 points, or 0.21%, to 3,687.26, and the Nasdaq Composite rose to 65.40 points or 0.51% to 12,807.92.
Of the 11 major sectors of the S&P 500, only technology and real estate ended the session in positive territory.
Tesla Inc fell 1.5% and extended its decline on day two as an S&P 500 component.
Peloton Interactive Inc rose 11.6% as brokers increased their target price on the stock following the company's announcement to buy $ 420 million in Peer Precor.
Amgen Inc was down 2.8% after disappointing results in a late-term study of an asthma drug developed in partnership with UK drug maker AstraZeneca Plc.
Declining issues outperformed advancing issues on the NYSE by a ratio of 1.31 to 1; On Nasdaq, a ratio of 1.21 to 1 favored the advanced.
The S&P 500 posted 23 new 52-week highs and one new low. The Nasdaq Composite made 323 new highs and 11 new lows.
The volume on the US stock exchanges was 11.02 billion shares, compared with the average of 11.62 billion in the last 20 trading days.
(Reporting by Stephen Culp; Additional reporting by Noel Randewich; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)

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