U.S. stock indexes struggled for direction on Wednesday after a strong start to the week, as investors digested a fresh update on Pfizer and BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine, while the fast-spreading Omicron variant kept bigger bets in check.
Pfizer and BioNTech said their three-shot course of COVID-19 vaccine was able to neutralize the new Omicron variant in a laboratory test and they could deliver an upgraded vaccine in March 2022 if needed.
Travel stocks rebounded, with the S&P 1500 Airlines index up 3.7 percent, while Norwegian Cruise Line led gains among cruiseliners.
Markets were cautious after reports earlier in the day said Britain could implement tougher COVID-19 measures, including advice to work from home, as early as Thursday in a bid to slow the spread of the Omicron variant.
Six of the 11 major S&P 500 sector indexes rose. Financials and utilities led to declines.
Technology-oriented growth stocks, which have been on the rise since the beginning of the week, were mixed.
Tesla Inc., Alphabet, Microsoft, Amazon, and Nvidia Corp. shed between 0.3 percent and 1.4 percent, while Apple and Meta Platforms moved higher.
Wall Street swung wildly last week as investors fretted that the spread of the new variant could force countries to lay down new restrictions, upending a global recovery at a time when central banks around the world are contemplating a move to pre-pandemic monetary policy environment.
At 11:50 a.m. ET, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was down 72.73 points, or 0.20 percent, at 35,646.70, the S&P 500 was down 0.34 points, or 0.01 percent, at 4,686.41, and the Nasdaq Composite was up 47.14 points, or 0.30 percent, at 15,734.06.
Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. rose 5.8 percent after Deutsche Bank upgraded the stock to “buy” from “hold.”
Stanley Black & Decker added 4.3 percent after Sweden’s Securitas agreed to buy its electronic security solutions business for $3.2 billion.
Advancing issues outnumbered decliners by a 1.67-to-1 ratio on the NYSE and a 2.00-to-1 ratio on the Nasdaq.
The S&P index recorded 27 new 52-week highs and no new low, while the Nasdaq recorded 27 new highs and 28 new lows.
By Devik Jain and Shreyashi Sanyal