NEW YORK, UNITED STATES – Wall Street stocks fell Friday to conclude a volatile week as markets weighed worries about rising coronavirus cases and a surprise US government move to end some emergency lending programs.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average ended down 0.8 percent at 29,263.48.
The broad-based S&P 500 dropped 0.7 percent at 3,557.54, while the tech-rich Nasdaq Composite Index declined 0.4 percent to 11,854.97.
US pharma giant Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech said Friday they have applied for emergency use authorization for their coronavirus vaccine, which could come next month.
The announcement comes as US virus case totals continue to rise, with an average of 167,400 cases per day this week, and states impose fresh restrictions to slow the outbreak.
Some analysts questioned a decision by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin to phase out a series of Federal Reserve programs enacted in the spring to support the corporate credit market, municipal lending and small and medium-sized businesses.
Mnuchin said he was following congressional intent in phasing out at year’s end the Fed programs, which were intended to help the US financial system weather the shock of the pandemic.
He said the funds unused by the central bank should be repurposed to other pandemic relief efforts.
But the Fed criticized the move in a rare public break with Treasury, and congressional Democrats accused Mnuchin of trying to sabotage the incoming administration of Joe Biden.
Ending the programs poses a “risk” for the economy, said a note from Oxford Economics.
“The emergency lending facilities have been little used, but their existence has been key in ensuring a credible safeguard against financial market stress,” Oxford said.
“With the Covid-19 crisis worsening and activity slowing in the absence of fiscal aid, the decision to curtail the Fed’s firepower could unsettle markets and exacerbate economic stress.”
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