Dow futures were pointing to a basically flat open, one day after the chaotic first debate between President Donald Trump and Democratic nominee Joe Biden. Comments from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin about being hopeful for a new stimulus deal and better-than-expected corporate America hiring were added to the mix Wednesday morning.
Dow futures were up more than 150 points at one stage during Tuesday night's debate, but quickly retreated as the debate ended and headed sharply lower overnight and early Wednesday morning. Traders hoping that the start of the debate season would lead to a clear winner on Election Day and not a drawn-out electoral process got little sign of that Tuesday night.
Wall Street snapped a three-session winning streak at Tuesday's close. The Dow Jones Industrial Average, S&P 500 and Nasdaq fell to their lows of the day after New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said the city's daily positive coronavirus test rate was back above 3% for the first time in months. De Blasio's comments came one day before indoor dining in the city returns. Positive data on a potential Covid-19 treatment from Regeneron Pharmaceuticals after the bell gave futures a boost that later faded. With one day left in September and the third quarter, the market was tracking for its first monthly loss since March but a strong quarterly advance.
Ahead of the Labor Department's monthly employment report Friday, ADP said Wednesday morning its latest look at hiring trends at American companies showed 749,000 jobs were created in September. Economists had expected a gain of 600,000 private-sector jobs this month after adding an upwardly revised 481,000 in August. During the pandemic, the ADP numbers have differed widely from the government's data.
Trump and Biden brawled on their first chance to challenge each other face to face Tuesday night. Hardly a minute went by without one of the candidates interrupting the other, whether on the coronavirus, the Supreme Court or the economy. Even the moderator, Fox News' Chris Wallace, couldn't always stay above the fray.
The candidates traded insults and accusations. "Will you shut up, man?" Biden snapped at Trump at one point. "You're the worst president America has ever had," he said later. "China ate your lunch," Trump shot back at Biden during questions on the economy. "I did more in 47 months as president than Joe Biden did in 47 years," Trump said.
They also spared over Obamacare, their adult children and mail-in voting. Trump declined to condemn White supremacists, saying the far-right Proud Boys group should "stand back and stand by" before blaming violence at racial injustice protests on "antifa and the left."
Despite pockets of Covid-19 infection increases in New York City, the Big Apple is moving forward with allowing indoor dining to resume at 25% capacity Wednesday. At his daily press conference Tuesday, de Blasio said, "We are going to watch that carefully, but bottom line is indoor dining will go forward." New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said later at his daily press conference, "I don't believe we're at the point of rolling back anything." Indoor dining in the city has been prohibited since March when New York saw its initial coronavirus surge and went on lockdown.
Prolonged closures at Walt Disney's California-based theme parks and limited attendance at its open parks have forced the company to lay off 28,000 employees across its parks, experiences and consumer products division. Around 67% of the 28,000 laid off workers were part-time employees, according to a statement from Disney's head of parks, Josh D'Amaro. Disney's coronavirus woes have been "exacerbated in California by the State's unwillingness to lift restrictions that would allow Disneyland to reopen," D'Amaro said. In memo to employees, he wrote that "a decision of this magnitude is not easy," adding that layoffs are "the only feasible option." Dow stock Disney fell nearly 2% in premarket trading.
Palantir, a provider of data analytics services to government agencies and large companies, is set to begin trading on the New York Stock Exchange on Wednesday. The NYSE said Tuesday evening that the reference price for Palantir's direct listing is $7.25 per share, valuing the company at $15.8 billion. Following Spotify and Slack, Palantir chose a direct listing instead of a traditional IPO. Among Palantir's co-founders are billionaire venture capitalist Peter Thiel and CEO Alex Karp.
In another direct listing, Asana, co-founded by billionaire Facebook co-founder Dustin Moskovitz, is also set to begin trading Wednesday on the NYSE, with a reference price of $21 per share for a direct listing. Moskovitz, also CEO of Asana, left Facebook in 2008 to start the provider of cloud-based software for tracking group projects. Thiel was also an early investor in Asana.
— The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.