Stock futures fluctuate, tech shares slide as Georgia Senate runoff results trickle in

Stock futures fluctuated Wednesday morning as traders awaited final results of the Georgia Senate runoff elections, which will determine control of Congress and shape policy decisions for the coming years.

Contracts on the Dow gained 0.3%, or about 100 points, with two hours left until the opening bell. Contracts on the Nasdaq sold off, however, and sank 1.3%, as markets took the increasing odds of a Democratic sweep in the Georgia Senate races as a possible sign for more anti-trust action against Big Tech companies. U.S. crude oil prices held above $50 per barrel after breaking above that level for the first time since February 2020 on Tuesday, after Saudi Arabia unexpectedly agreed to cut oil output by one million barrels per day to help support languishing energy prices.

Political uncertainty has gripped U.S. equities over the past several sessions, with the Georgia Senate run-off elections a central event. Democrat Raphael Warnock edged out incumbent Republican Kelly Loeffler to win one of the two seats in the state, the Associated Press reported Wednesday morning. This would give Democrats 49 seats in the Senate to Republicans’ 50, with one seat still hanging in balance. The Georgia Senate race between incumbent Republican David Perdue and Democratic challenger Jon Ossoff remained too close to all as of Wednesday morning.

Strategists have largely taken hold of the notion that a Democratic sweep of both seats in Georgia would be a market negative event due to the implications for higher corporate taxes and bigger government spending. The S&P 500 could see a downdraft of as much as 10%, according to one prediction from Oppenheimer.

“The lights … may be dimmed a little bit on the market run we’ve been having depending on what the outcome is. I think from our perspective, if you do see Democrats win both of those seats with a 50-50, very slim majority in the Senate, we could see some action that could result in a tax increase really in late 2021 or 2022,” Chris Meekins, healthcare policy analyst Raymond James, told Yahoo Finance. “But in the near-term, you’re more likely to get fiscal stimulus, you’re more likely to see some potential nominations get through that may be more progressive. So it’s a bit of a mixed bag. I think it will take some time for the market to interpret what can get done versus what won’t be able to get done.”

Others also suggested markets’ fears over the outcome of the election may be overblown.

“Even if the Democrats win two seats, which would give them the Senate in a 50-50 tie, there are a couple of Democrats who are quite moderate — you’ve got Joe Manchin of West Virginia, you’ve got Jon Tester of Montana,” Greg Valliere, AGF chief U.S. policy strategist, told Yahoo Finance on Tuesday. “Those two moderate Democrats I think will not going along with everything the Democrats want if they control the Senate. So no matter how you slice it, I think you’re looking at a pretty centrist environment for the financial market.”

8:37 a.m. ET: Moderna shares jump after EU authorizes its COVID-19 vaccine

Shares of Moderna (MRNA) rose more than 3% in early trading after the European Union’s drug regulators approved the company’s COVID-19 vaccine, making it the second available in the bloc. The EU recently approved the vaccine from Pfizer and BioNTech.

The EU has a deal with Moderna for 160 million doses of the vaccine, which are expected to be available in early 2021. The U.S. and Canada have already begun inoculating citizens with the Moderna vaccine.

8:30 a.m. ET: Private payrolls unexpectedly drop by 123,000 in December, in first decline since April

Employment in the private sector sank for the first time since April in December, according to ADP’s monthly private payrolls report, underscoring the labor market’s weakening Congress passed its latest fiscal stimulus package.

Private payrolls fell by 123,000 during the final month of 2020, following a revised increase of 304,000 jobs in November. Consensus economists expected to see 75,000 jobs come back in December, according to Bloomberg data.

The service-providing sector was hit hard again after a brief reprieve in recent months, as tighter lockdown measures came back into effect across the country starting in mid-November. Leisure and hospitality industries lost 58,000 payrolls in December, followed closely by trade and transportation industries with a decline of 50,000. Manufacturing industries also lost 21,000 private payrolls in December, unwinding some of the goods-producing sector’s recent recovery. The industries that did see net payroll gains during December – including business services and education and health services – posted only modest increases.

7:53 a.m. ET: Nasdaq sells off Wednesday morning, with Democratic sweep in Georgia ‘a clear negative for Big Tech’: Wedbush

Contracts on the Nasdaq came under the most pressure of the three major indices Wednesday morning, with the increasing odds of a Democratic sweep in Georgia weighing on the tech-heavy index, according to many analysts. Each of the FAANG stocks – Facebook (FB), Amazon (AMZN), Apple (AAPL), Netflix (NFLX) and Alphabet (GOOGL) – were lower by more than 1.5% in early trading.

“To be blunt, its a clear negative for Big Tech as ultimately with a Senate now likely controlled by Democrats we would expect much more scrutiny and sharper teeth around FAANG names with potential (although still a low risk) legislative changes to current anti-trust laws now on the table,” Dan Ives of Wedbush wrote in a note Wednesday morning.

“While momentum for business model breakups of FAANG names have been gaining steam over the past few years within the Beltway and EU, it lacked any political strength to make significant changes outside of political grandstanding events,” he said. “This all changes now in the eyes of the Street with the risk of business model scrutiny from tech giants Amazon, Google, Apple, and Facebook now in a brighter spotlight, which adds more risk to the overall tech sector in our opinion.”

“We still believe with a slim majority that major legislative changes/breakups to Big Tech will find difficulty becoming a reality, however the risk of business model changes is now clearly in the conversation,” he added.

7:23 a.m. ET Wednesday: Stocks mixed as Georgia runoff results trickle in

Here were the main moves in markets, as of 7:23 a.m. ET Wednesday:

  • S&P 500 futures (ES=F): 3,715.75, down 2.5 points or 0.07%

  • Dow futures (YM=F): 30,395.00, up 110 points or 0.36%

  • Nasdaq futures (NQ=F): 12,623.00, down 170.5 point or 1.33%

  • Crude (CL=F): +$0.26 (+0.52%) to $50.19 a barrel

  • Gold (GC=F): -$5.20 (-0.27%) to $1,949.20 per ounce

  • 10-year Treasury (^TNX): +5.9 bps to yield 1.013%

6:02 p.m. ET Tuesday: Stock futures open flat

Here were the main moves in markets, as of 6:02 p.m. ET Tuesday:

  • S&P 500 futures (ES=F): 3,715.5, down 2.75 points or 0.07%

  • Dow futures (YM=F): 30,265.00, down 20 points or 0.07%

  • Nasdaq futures (NQ=F): 12,794.5, up 1 point or 0.01%

NEW YORK, NEW YORK – MAY 26: The New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) stands in lower Manhattan on the first day that traders are allowed back onto the historic floor of the exchange on May 26, 2020 in New York City. While only a small number of traders will be returning at this time, those that do will have to take temperature checks and wear face masks at all times while on the floor. The Dow rose over 600 points in morning trading as investors see economic activity in America picking up (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

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