Dow Slips in Cautious Trading Ahead of Presidential Debate

The global death toll from the coronavirus pandemic passes 1 million and investors assess a fresh $2.2 trillion aid proposal.

Stocks were mostly lower as Wall Street looked ahead to the first presidential debate Tuesday evening between U.S. President Donald Trump and Democratic candidate Joe Biden.

Investors also assessed a fresh $2.2 trillion coronavirus aid proposal from House Democrats after the global death toll from the virus passed 1 million.

The 90-minute debate, with moderator Chris Wallace leading the questioning, begins at 9 p.m. ET. It’s likely Trump will face questions over his tax returns following a bombshell report from The New York Times and his handling of the coronavirus pandemic that has claimed the lives of more than 205,000 Americans.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 56 points, or 0.21%, to 27,527, the S&P 500 declined 0.07% and the Nasdaq rose 0.03%.

Stocks finished sharply higher Monday as equities came off a four-week losing streak. The Dow gained 410 points, or 1.51%, to close at 27,584, the S&P 500 rose 1.61% and the Nasdaq rose 1.87%.

The scaled back $2.2 trillion coronavirus relief package released by House Democrats Monday evening would restore $600 weekly jobless benefits. The proposal is less than the $3.4 billion bill passed by the House in May, but remains above what Senate Republicans have said they would accept.

A vote on the legislation could come later this week. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi spoke with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin Monday evening and the two are expected to talk again Tuesday. Negotiations over Covid-19 relief have been at a stalemate since early August.

Pelosi said the new stimulus package includes “new funding needed to avert catastrophe for schools, small businesses, restaurants, performance spaces, airline workers and others.”

“While investors may be feeling optimistic about a stimulus, I think there are still some significant risks ahead the market today does not seem to be reflecting,” said Ken Moraif, senior financial advisor at Retirement Planners of America. “We have what I believe is complete uncertainty about the impact of the upcoming election, the future path of Covid-19, and worries about rising infections in the winter, which could all stunt economic growth.

“While these issues have all been weighing on the market for weeks now and the market has remained relatively stable, it is difficult to predict if they ever will eventually catch up with the market. Right now, I am not overly optimistic about where the market is headed, but I do remain cautiously bullish,” Moraif added.

The number of confirmed global deaths from Covid-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, topped 1 million on Monday evening, according to Johns Hopkins University, almost 10 months after the disease first emerged in Wuhan, China.

The U.S. death toll is 205,091, the most in the world and more than 20% of the global total.

Brazil is second on the list, with more than 142,000 deaths, while India is third.

The virus has taken more lives this year than H.I.V., malaria, influenza and cholera, and many health experts say the true death toll from Covid-19 could be almost double, The New York Times reported.