US stocks near flat amid stimulus hopes, inflation fears

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NEW YORK – Wall Street stocks finished little changed on Friday (Feb 19), concluding a choppy week in which optimism over coronavirus vaccines and stimulus competed with inflation fears.

Appearing at a pharmaceutical plant in Michigan, US President Joe Biden again called for Congress to boldly boost the coronavirus-ravaged US economic and enact his US$1.9 trillion (S$2.5 trillion) rescue package.

In another propitious development for markets and the country, Pfizer and BioNTech said research showed their Covid-19 vaccine could be stored at standard freezer temperatures, potentially lowering the costs and logistical challenges of widespread inoculation against the deadly virus.

But a jump in yields on 10-year US Treasury notes amid inflation worries “appears to be keeping gains in check,” said a market note from Charles Schwab.

The Dow Industrial Average ended unchanged at 31,494.32.

The broad-based S&P 500 slipped 0.2 per cent to 3,906.71, while the tech-rich Nasdaq Composite Index added 0.1 per cent at 13,874.46.

The Dow finished the week modestly higher, while both the S&P 500 and Nasdaq declined.

Among individual companies, Deere & Co. jumped almost 10 per cent after reporting that quarterly profits more than doubled to US$1.2 billion amid improvement in the agricultural and construction sectors.

NXP Semiconductors rose 3.1 per cent, recovering from some losses earlier in the week after announcing that the Texas power crisis forced it to idle two plants in Austin.

Another chip company, Applied Materials, jumped 5.3 per cent after reporting higher profits and revenues amid strong demand.

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