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Stocks Descend as COVID-19 Cases Rise and Hopes Fade for a Stimulus Deal

Stocks were down in early Monday trading following a rise in the number of coronavirus cases and dimming hopes for a stimulus deal to help boost the ailing United States economy.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 1.1%, or 310 points, at 9:30 a.m. ET, while the S&P 500 dropped 1%, or 35 points, and the Nasdaq Composite slipped nearly 0.9%, or 101 points.

Retail stocks also opened in the red: Big-box chains Walmart Inc. and Target Corp. declined 0.7%, while shoe leaders Steven Madden Inc., Skechers USA Inc. and Crocs Inc. decreased a respective 2.5%, 1.8% and 2.3%. Athletic giants Nike Inc. and Under Armour Inc. dipped 0.6% and 1.8%, and department store Nordstrom Inc. slid 1.5%.

On Sunday, the seven-day average of new COVID-19 infections hit 68,767 in the U.S. — topping the previous peak of 67,293 reported on July 22. Health authorities have expressed concerns about a surge in new cases in the cooler months ahead, and National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases director Dr. Anthony Fauci warned that widespread availability for a potential vaccine might not happen until several months into next year. Currently, more than 8.63 million people in the U.S. have contracted the virus, and at least 225,200 have died.

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Investors are also keeping a close eye on congressional talks surrounding a second stimulus package. Yesterday, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi told CNN that an agreement could be reached as soon as this week. Only eight days remain until the presidential election, and it’s growing likely that any proposal would get a vote during a lame-duck session, as some policymakers who return to their chambers following the election will not be in the next Congress.

Over the past few months, Democrats and Republicans have been split over issues including the dollar amount of unemployment benefits and protections for small businesses, as well as funding for states and cities plus money for coronavirus testing. According to reports, the latest stimulus bill under discussion could total between $1.8 trillion and $2.2 trillion.

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