Stock Market Today: Stimulus Stalemate Stalls Stocks

Gridlock in D.C. and underwhelming earnings reports from a couple of Dow stocks split the major indexes.

(Image credit: Getty Images)

The market was mixed Friday as investors weighed the stalemate over stimulus and some disappointing quarterly reports from major blue chips. Lawmakers' back-and-forth over a deal to pump trillions more into the economy to soften the blow of the pandemic has been a running theme for stocks.

On a more granular level, Intel (INTC) fell 11% after posting earnings late Thursday that revealed a surprise drop in revenue in its critical server business. Meanwhile, American Express (AXP) shed 3.7% after missing analysts' average earnings estimate. Both stocks are members of the Dow Jones Industrial Average, which closed down 0.1% to 28,335.

"Stocks finished slightly lower, on average, following a string of choppy sessions, with several sudden intraday shifts making traders dizzy on Wall Street," said Gorilla Trades strategist Ken Berman.

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"The pressure of the looming elections, the stimulus saga continued throughout the week, the second European COVID wave got even worse, while the number of cases crept higher in the U.S. as well," added Berman. "But the pressure on the domestic healthcare system remains manageable and the economic recovery seems to be on track."

Other action in the stock market today:

  • The S&P 500 rose 0.3% to 3,465.
  • The Nasdaq Composite added 0.4% to finish at 11,548.
  • The small-cap Russell 2000 inched up 0.6% to 1,640.

Have Your Cake and Eat It Too with Mid-Cap Stocks

As we await outcomes to the stimulus negotiations and the elections, tactical investors can be forgiven for not knowing whether to play offense or defense.

Cheap, diversified bets using exchange-traded funds (ETFs) can help you bracket both sides of any market trend. Or consider a hand-picked selection of sector ETFs, which can be used to overweight growth or stability without overdoing it. As for stockpickers, low-volatility stocks might let you sleep better at night, but they also tend to lag behind a rising market.

Is there an opportunity to have your cake and eat it, too? Look to the market's best mid-cap stocks – companies between roughly $2 billion and $10 billion in market value – for both growth potential and financial stability.

Dan Burrows
Senior Investing Writer,

Dan Burrows is Kiplinger's senior investing writer, having joined the august publication full time in 2016.

A long-time financial journalist, Dan is a veteran of SmartMoney, MarketWatch, CBS MoneyWatch, InvestorPlace and DailyFinance. He has written for The Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, Consumer Reports, Senior Executive and Boston magazine, and his stories have appeared in the New York Daily News, the San Jose Mercury News and Investor's Business Daily, among other publications. As a senior writer at AOL's DailyFinance, Dan reported market news from the floor of the New York Stock Exchange and hosted a weekly video segment on equities.

Once upon a time – before his days as a financial reporter and assistant financial editor at legendary fashion trade paper Women's Wear Daily – Dan worked for Spy magazine, scribbled away at Time Inc. and contributed to Maxim magazine back when lad mags were a thing. He's also written for Esquire magazine's Dubious Achievements Awards.

In his current role at Kiplinger, Dan writes about equities, fixed income, currencies, commodities, funds, macroeconomics, demographics, real estate, cost of living indexes and more.

Dan holds a bachelor's degree from Oberlin College and a master's degree from Columbia University.

Disclosure: Dan does not trade stocks or other securities. Rather, he dollar-cost averages into cheap funds and index funds and holds them forever in tax-advantaged accounts.