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* Airlines and cruise operators drop as virus cases soar
* Moderna rises as it approaches the release of vaccine data
* Jobless benefit claims drop to seven month minimum (Updates with session close)
Nov 12 (Reuters) – Wall Street closed sharply lower on Thursday as coronavirus infections rise in the United States, and investors weighed the timing for the mass launch of an effective vaccine.
On Wednesday, New York became the latest state to introduce stricter social distancing rules, as new infections in the country increased by more than 100,000 for the eighth consecutive day.
Blue chip Dow was taken down by economic growth sensitive industrial and financial companies, with Boeing Co and Goldman Sachs down more than 2% each.
Airlines and cruise operators are also down, among the most affected by the coronavirus pandemic.
Even after plunging Thursday, the S&P 500 gained nearly 2% this week, buoyed by positive data from vaccine studies that raised expectations for a rapid economic recovery. The shares also benefited from expectations that a divided Congress will prevent President-elect Joe Biden from issuing tax increases that would hurt corporate profits.
“The reality is we don’t know what the new normal will look like, even as we recover from the coronavirus, and that’s still a long way off,” said Tom Martin, senior portfolio manager at Globalt Investments in Atlanta.
“It is the classic among the market that discounts something that has expired for nine to 12 months and then ‘takes it away’ because it hasn’t happened yet.”
The new data showed that U.S. jobless claims fell to a seven-month low last week, but the pace of the job recovery slowed as fiscal stimulus eased and further improvement could be limited by a furious pandemic.
Unofficially, the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 358.48 points, or 1.22%, to 29,039.15, the S&P 500 lost 38.94 points, or 1.09%, to 3,533.72 and the Nasdaq Composite was down 84.98 points, or 0.72%, to 11,701.45.
Among the biggest incentives at Nasdaq was an increase in the US-listed shares of Chinese e-commerce company Pinduoduo Inc, after posting strong quarterly revenue.
Shares of rival JD.com Inc also rose.
The S&P 500 energy index and financial data fell sharply.
Moderna Inc recovered after the drug manufacturer said it had enough data for a first interim analysis of the late-stage trial of its experimental COVID-19 vaccine. He did not say when he intends to release the data.
Walt Disney Co and networking equipment manufacturer Cisco Systems Inc both outperformed their quarterly results forecast after closing. (Additional reporting by Medha Singh in Bengaluru; Editing by Sriraj Kalluvila, Shounak Dasgupta and Tom Brown)